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What is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)?

What is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)?

As one of the fastest-growing positions in the medical industry, hiring a certified nurse midwife (CNM) is rapidly becoming a popular alternative for women who want to give birth in a non-hospital environment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary of a CNM nurse is nearly $105,000 annually and is expected to rise as the demand for CNMs increases over the next decade. Another reason why women are choosing CNMs over traditional obstetricians involves the skyrocketing costs of medical care not covered by health insurance.

What is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

A certified nurse midwife has a background in nursing and a graduate degree. Regular certified midwives (CMs) have a graduate degree but no nursing background. What exactly a CNM can do as a health professional varies slightly according to different state laws. Most certified nurse midwives are legally able to:

  • Deliver babies or assist with cesarean sections
  • Educate and counsel their patients regarding prenatal care, childbirth and general health concerns of women
  • Conduct physical examinations, diagnose and treat medical conditions and, in some cases, prescribe medications. Some states consider CNMs as licensed APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses) who can do everything an APRN can do.
  • Treat women and their partners for STDs
  • Provide special and follow-up services (breastfeeding, infant care advice) for mothers and their babies following delivery
  • Provide gynecological services for women of all ages

With a worsening shortage of nurses and primary care providers affecting the ability of U.S. citizens to access much-needed healthcare, certified nurse midwives are becoming indispensable for their help in relieving the shortage. Rural communities have especially been hit hard with shortages of primary care doctors. As a result, rural communities are relying more on CNMs and less on primary care physicians (PCPs) for treatment of OB/GYN and general health problems.

How Do You Become a Certified Nurse Midwife?

CNMs must have a Bachelor of Science in Registered Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN examination before they can apply to an accredited nurse-midwife program. BSN courses involve classroom lectures regarding human anatomy and physiology, fundamentals of human psychology, chemistry, microbiology and pathology. In addition, BSN students must complete a number of hours in a supervised clinical internship at an area hospital.

All registered nurses practicing in the United States have passed the NCLEX-RN examination. Each U.S. state has established rules for potential RNs who want to work in that particular state. Students awarded a BSN should learn more about their state’s Nursing Practice Act before taking the NCLEX-RN.

The next step towards becoming a CNM nurse is to apply for a graduate-level, nurse-midwife program that has been accredited by the ACME (Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education). Once a registered nurse has finished the program and passed a certification test, they are eligible to receive the official designation as a certified nurse midwife recognized by all 50 states.

Before beginning their career as CNMs, nurses must then apply for certification in the state they wish to practice. Each state has different requirements for being able to apply for certification as a CNM. Some states allow applications to be submitted online while others ask that applications be sent via postal mail.

Renewal of certified nurse midwife licenses must be completed every five years. Licenses are renewed through the state and ACME. Many states mandate registered nurse complete a certain number of continuing education hours between the renewal of licenses.

What is the Career Outlook for Certified Nurse Midwives?

Pay Rates

According to Nurse Journal, New York State pays a CNM nurse the highest salary compared to the other 49 states–nearly $93,000 annually. As demand for CNM nurses continues to rise, registered nurses interested in becoming a licensed certified nurse midwife should expect states to offer higher pay for their services.

Working Environment

A CNM nurse may work in hospital settings, private clinics and medical centers or choose to work for individual clients instead of clinical environments. As long as a CNM is state-licensed to practice, they can work just about anywhere they wish.

Certified nurse midwives practicing outside a clinical setting will need to check their state’s laws regarding self-employment as a health professional.

FAQs About CNMs

Are CNMs only meant to provide healthcare services for pregnant women?

No. CNMs provide much more than obstetrics/gynocological care for women. From pre-pregnancy counseling for couples to gynecological care for teenage girls to post-menopausal healthcare for older women, CNMs offer a wide range of medical services that are more personalized and less clinical than traditional physicians practicing out of a busy clinic or medical center.

What is the difference between an OB-GYN doctor and a certified nurse midwife?

The only difference between an OB-GYN and a CNM is that CNMs primarily care for pregnant women who are considered “low-risk” patients. A low-risk pregnant patient is one who is generally healthy, has no history of miscarriages and does not suffer from a medical condition that could complicate the pregnancy and birth.

A 2009 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reports that “planned home births attended by CNMs were associated with extremely low rates of serious perinatal deaths in addition to reduced rates of OB/GYN interventions compared to rates associated with hospital births and births attended by physicians.” Interventions include epidurals, fetal monitoring, episiotomies and emergency c-sections.

What is the difference between a certified nurse midwife and a certified midwife?

Clinical skills needed to work as a certified nurse midwife or a regular certified midwife (CM) are the same. Both CNMs and CMs must also pass the certification exam for midwifery. The primary difference between the two midwife positions is that CMs have a bachelor’s degree and some experience in the healthcare field but have not earned a registered nursing license.

Resources, Organizations and Agencies

Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education

The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM)

Registered Nursing

NCLEX Practice Exam

Midwifery Resources

Nursing Scholarships

Best Nursing Programs Scholarship

Comprehensive list of nursing scholarships

American College of Nurse-Midwives scholarships

Certified Nurse Midwife Programs

Before being admitted into a CNM program, registered nurses will need to submit school transcripts, proof of a BSN-RN earned from an accredited university or college, an active registered nurse license, cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0, several letters of reference and a goal statement. In addition, students must have one year of nursing experience working in a professional medical setting.

Yale School of Nursing

Yale’s midwifery program is accredited by the ACME. This program includes coursework and placement of students in medical practices operating in Connecticut and neighboring states. Independent and elective courses also allow nurses to pursue desired professional or educational goals.  This program has the option for students to earn their nurse midwifery degree and a WHNP (women’s health nurse practitioner) degree simultaneously.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Vanderbilt University’s nurse-midwifery program is accredited by the ACME. Clinical experience sites are based in central Tennessee areas and surrounding states. These sites are used by students for clinical rotation purposes.

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

SUNY’s nurse-midwifery program is accredited by the ACME and registered with the NYS Education Department.

Emory University

Emory University’s nurse-midwife program is a four-semester course that makes graduates eligible to take the AMCB certification examination. Students must submit GRE scores upon applying but this requirement may be waived if students have a 3.2+ GPA earned while completing a BSN program from an accredited university or college.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

After completing this dual major program at UPSN, students are eligible to take the certification exams given by AMCB and the National Certification Corporation (NCC). The NCC certification allows students who pass the exam to become licensed as a women’s health nurse practitioner. The UPSN midwifery program is accredited by the ACME.

Georgetown University

Nurses can take a blend of online and on-campus courses at Georgetown to prepare to take the AMCB certification exam. This program involves a dual curriculum of labor, birth, reproductive health and women’s health nurse practitioner courses that provides education regarding ambulatory and primary care for women of all ages. Upon completion, nurses are eligible to take the AMCB and National Credentialing Corporation exams to become certified as a CNM and WHNP.

Learn More About Becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife

For more information about this exciting and growing medical field, contact us today. We provide assistance for registered nurses who are interested in applying to a CNM nurse program and perform the intensive research necessary to find the right school to fit your needs. In addition to the affordability of certified nurse midwife programs, we also delve into accreditations awarded to universities or colleges and availability of programs for nurses who wish to get started on a new career path as soon as possible.

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