A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is an advanced practice registered nurse who has received specialized graduate education to provide healthcare services to women throughout their reproductive lives. Most people believe that nurse midwives simply assist in the birthing process to bring new life into the world. While this is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, CNMs only spend about one-tenth of their time giving direct care to women in labor. CNMs are also involved in providing routine gynecological, reproductive health, and peri-menopausal care across the age spectrum. By collaborating with gynecologists, obstetricians, and other physicians, Certified Nurse Midwives play a prominent role in today’s healthcare world to ensure women receive optimal primary and preventive care catered to their unique needs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 5,460 Certified Nurse Midwives employed across America earn an average annual salary of $92,230, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $44.34. While CNMs working in physician offices make around average at $93,170, those employed in home healthcare services bring home the highest mean salary at $101,420 each year.
When first entering this profession, APRNs can expect to land in the bottom 10 percent of earnings with an average yearly salary around $62,820. However, it’s important to note that CNMs with additional years of experience and more responsibilities can easily break the six-figure salary make to make over $120,540 annually!
Certified Nurse Midwives are given the responsibility of providing primary care and educating their female patients on how to lead healthy lives. CNMs mostly deliver care to relatively healthy women with low-risk pregnancies or common illnesses. CNMs will consult with physicians to provide assistance to women with more complex medical histories too. On a typical day, nurse midwives could be found delivering a baby, providing prenatal or postpartum care, treating acute or chronic conditions, conducting gynecological exams, attending to pregnancy-related problems, educating patients, providing newborn care, or even prescribing pharmacological treatment. In some cases, CNMs will work with their patients’ partners to solve reproductive health issues too.
In order to be successful in this role, CNMs must have strong critical thinking skills to quickly assess any changes in their patients’ health and quickly determine the right treatment option. It’s important for CNMs to be organized and detail-oriented to maintain meticulous records of patient progress. Having good interpersonal skills is a must because nurse midwives must educate their patients, communicate with other healthcare professionals, and work as part of the healthcare team to execute treatment plans. Leadership skills are important for any CNMs given seniority in managing other nursing staff members. Certified Nurse Midwives should also be caring and compassionate, especially when treating patients with physical or emotional distress.
Degree and Education Requirements
CNMs begin their journey into advanced practice nursing by first becoming a registered nurse in one of three pathways. Aspiring nurses can complete a hospital-based diploma, two-year associate’s degree (ADN), or a four-year bachelor’s degree (BSN) from an accredited nursing school. From there, you’ll need to head to graduate school to enroll in a traditional Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or an RN-to-MSN bridge program. It’s advised that aspiring Certified Nurse Midwives select an accredited master’s degree that features a specialization in nursing midwifery, maternal-child health, or women’s health for the best preparation. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) could also unlock further opportunities for advanced clinical practice.
Pros and Cons of the Position
As with other nursing specialties, becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife is a satisfying choice for caring individuals who wish to truly make a difference in the lives of others. CNMs often spend more one-on-one time interacting with patients than physicians during appointments. CNMs are allowed to provide hands-on support during labor and the birth to safely welcome new infants into the world. Nurse midwives also receive a high salary potential, great benefits, a variety of employment options, and the chance to specialize in women’s health. On the flip side, CNMs are not legally able to care for high-risk pregnancies and can only assist during C-section procedures when needed. Since women can go into labor at any time, CNMs usually work irregular hours and are on-call even on holidays. Maintaining the CNM credential also requires taking several continuing education courses for re-certification every five years.
After receiving an appropriate undergraduate education, you must sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to receive a valid state RN license. Before graduate school, you should start getting your feet wet in the nursing profession by taking a staff RN position at a local hospital or physician’s office. If possible, start building your resume with relevant work experience in women’s health and newborn care. Your master’s degree program will also blend classroom instruction with real-world clinical experience in various nursing midwifery settings. After graduation, most states nationwide will require you to become licensed and pursue professional certification. Through the American Midwifery Certified Board (AMCB), you can become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). You’ll have to graduate from a master’s program, have an active RN license, attain clinical experience, and pass a certifying exam.
Thanks to new health insurance legislation and an increased societal emphasis on preventive care, there’s expected to be a rising demand for healthcare services for the foreseeable future. Since there’s a critical shortage of physicians, APRNs like Certified Nurse Midwives are being relied upon for providing many primary care services. CNMs will remain in very high demand, especially in medically underserved areas like urban cities and rural areas. In fact, the BLS expects that the employment of CNMs will skyrocket at the rate of 31%, thus adding 1,700 new jobs before 2022. Nurse midwives can find favorable job prospects in hospitals, birthing centers, community clinics, physician offices, private practices, and home birth services.
Overall, a Certified Nurse Midwife is a highly trained advanced practice nurse who stays with women for a lifetime to meet their health needs from puberty through menopause. According to the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), the percentage of CNMs in women’s health has risen nearly every year since 1986. Today, CNMs attend 313,846 births each year, which is around 11.8% of all vaginal births in the United States. If you make the decision to become a Certified Nurse Midwife, you’ll have the rewarding opportunity to deliver the gender-focused health assessment and education needed to keep women as healthy as possible.