Midwives are primary health care providers who perform a range of services to female patients throughout their lifespan.

These services can range from gynecological work to counseling in regards to pre-/peri-/post-partum and menopausal care. Most notably, certified nurse midwives (CNM) and certified midwives (CM) attended almost 92 percent of all midwife-attended births and 8.3 percent of all U.S. births in 2014 (the most recent year from which such statistics are available).

According to a survey conducted by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), 53.3 percent and 33.1 percent of full-time midwives responded that reproductive care and primary care have represented their main responsibilities.

But the career path of nurse-midwifery can go beyond primary care duties. Some nurse midwives obtain roles in education, health promotion, and even policy development and legislative affairs. Other, more typical responsibilities, include scheduling exams, writing prescriptions, counseling, patient education, and reproductive health visits.

Nursing-midwives can work in clinical settings alongside doctors, in governmental departments, and in patient homes. Many midwives choose to find work with under-served communities, either through the public sector or with non-profit organizations. If you enjoy the thought of assisting, caring, and keeping expectant mothers healthy, a specialization in midwifery may be a good career option for you.

What Credentials Do I Need to Become a Nurse-Midwife?

It’s important to understand that there are two types of midwives: Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Midwives (CM).

CNMs are registered nurses who graduate from a nurse-midwifery program, accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) and who pass a national certification examination to receive the professional designation of certified nurse-midwife.

CMs generally have an educational background in a health-related field that is not nursing. They also graduate from a midwifery education program accredited by ACME. Graduates of an ACME-accredited midwifery education program take the same national certification examination as CNMs, but receive the professional designation of a certified midwife.

Generally, CNMs and CMs will share similar responsibilities. Some states have higher standards for midwifery practice than others, and so will license CNMs but not CMs. Other differences include the need for physician oversight in the case of CNMs, and CNMs ability to write prescriptions. In the case that you are already a registered nurse and are looking to get further specialization, the CNM track may be the best option for you, as it tends to offer higher salaries and a wider variety of job opportunities.

What Does a MSN- Specialization in Nurse Midwifery Program Entail?

The most recent analysis of the annual ACNM Core Data Survey found that 82 percent of employed midwives have a Master’s degree, and that and 4.8 percent have doctoral degrees (one of the highest percentage of any nursing field).

And as of 2010, changes made by the ACME require that practitioners have at least a Master’s degree in order to enter the midwifery practice as a CNM or certified midwife (CM).

The ACME is the official accreditation body for certified nursing midwives. Currently, there are 38 accredited midwifery education programs in the United States: be sure that the program you are interested in has these accreditations. There are programs online that allow for different entry to an MSN school: RN-to-MSN, accelerated BSN, and BSN-as-a-second-degree programs. Note that if you are entering nursing from a degree other than a BSN, you should have a high GPA and some healthcare experience or healthcare volunteering experience.

As with any nursing specialization, once you complete the institutional requirements of your Master’s degree plan, the AMCB certificate is the last step on your path to working as an accredited Nurse-Midwife. You must have your graduate degree and be a Registered Nurse in order to take this examination, which certifies you for five years at a time.

A Masters of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Midwifery covers a range of contents that include advanced physiology and pathophysiology, applied pharmacology, intrapartum and postpartum care, professional midwifery issues, research methods, public policy leadership, and advanced practice nursing roles and issues. Programs also teach future nurse-midwives about the ethical and legal issues related to child delivery and women’s health.

The following are program features a Nursing-Midwife candidate may likely see in their degree path:

Pathophysiology for Primary Care

The area of pathophysiology refers to the scientific study of disease or abnormal processes. Nurses use pathophysiology every time they come in contact with a patient, and nurses must have extensive knowledge and practical experience in this area. Nursing students who take this class are meant to learn how to restore the body after it suffers from a number of possible abnormalities that lead to diseases.

Postpartum and Newborn Care

One of the biggest responsibilities of Nurse-Midwives is to provide primary care for newborns and their mothers. This and similar courses tend to cover general care for the mother and the newborn, and they teach future Nurse-Midwives about the postnatal period and the complications that can arise during it. Nurses may also learn about different ethical issues related to respecting the rights and concerns of new mothers, as well as working with those who suffer postpartum depression and other postnatal psychological complications.

Clinical Hours

Given that midwifery requires a large amount of hands-on application in extremely sensitive scenarios such as labor and childbirth, students must also complete clinical hours as part of their degree. The exact requirements will vary by program; many online programs make it possible for prospective nurse-midwives to complete these hours in an approved healthcare environment near their home. Students participating in clinical experiences take part in preconception care visits, births, newborn assessments, and breastfeeding support visits. Generally, you must complete several hundred hours of clinical experience in order to both earn your degree and sit for the AMCB certification exam.

How Much is Tuition for an Online Program?

As with any graduate program, tuition will vary depending on factors such as your place of residence and the time it takes you to complete your degree. At any rate, online options tend to be less expensive than their on-campus equivalents and may offer the flexibility a student working as a registered nurse needs in order to further their education. A full-time student can expect to complete a typical program in 2 to 3 years.

Below, we have listed some options ranked as among the best and most affordable online programs, to serve as an example:

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

(Ranked #35 in U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Schools) – $20,400 per semester – 51 Credit Hours (includes occasional campus visits)

Stony Brook University

(Ranked #10 by U.S News and World Report) – $26,086 (in-state tuition); $44,576 (out of state) – 47 credit hours

East Carolina University

(Ranked #15 by U.S. News and World Report) – $12,970 (only available for students in the Carolinas) – 51-53 credit hours (required campus visits)

Be sure to investigate the campus visit requirements of the institution you choose, as this may influence your ability to participate in a given school’s program.

What Salary Can I Expect?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average nurse midwife earned $100,590 in 2017. In conjunction with Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Anesthetists, the Nurse Midwife profession is expected to grow 31 percent through 2026, which is far higher than the national average.

The majority of Nurse Midwives work in private practices, hospitals, birth centers, health clinics, and home birth services, although there is also work to be found in the non-profit sector. Occasionally, experienced nurse midwives establish their own practices within their community.

Is Midwifery Right For Me?

Nurse-midwifery is a field which has grown notably in popularity over the last few decades. As a field connected intricately with women’s health and reproductive medicine, midwifery is among the forefront of industries affected by quickly changing social and ethical norms, as well as quickening advances in health technology.

Nurse Midwives strive to constantly lower the number of infants and maternal deaths and premature births. They work in extremely intimate situations in some of the most important moments in patients’ lives. Many nurse midwives choose to work in vulnerable populations, where lack of access to high-quality health education can lead to misconceptions and uninformed decisions with respect to childbirth and neonatal care; it is part of a nurse midwife’s responsibility to bridge these gaps, and to provide education as well as care to those patients in need.

If you are passionate about reproductive health, improving safety standards for women during childbirth and newborns, and aiding families through a critical period of their life, this may be a good career choice for you, with steadily increasing possibilities for employment.