How to Become a Nurse Midwife

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse midwife caring for a pregnant patient

Are you passionate about caring for women? Do you have strong clinical skills? Are you eager to provide patient-centered, holistic care? If so, a nurse midwife may be the perfect career choice for you. We will explain how to become a nurse midwife, what they really do, and where they work.

What Is a Nurse Midwife?

A nurse midwife is a registered nurse with an advanced degree who cares for women during their reproductive years, pregnancy, and childbirth. They may also be called a certified nurse midwife (CNM).

The word midwife comes from the Mid-English word, “Mid-wîf,” which means “with woman.” What we really mean is someone who is with a woman during childbirth. To this day, the notion has not escaped the practice. In fact, a study interviewing midwives found they emphasize how important being “with woman” is to their practice and identity. It is a central construct.

Nurse Midwife vs. OB-GYN

A nurse midwife is a women’s health practitioner trained in the nursing model. They attend low-risk, uncomplicated births and may work alongside obstetricians.

An obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) is a physician trained in the medical model. They attend all types of births, including those requiring surgical interventions like a C-section.

What Does a Nurse Midwife Do?

While most people likely think that a nurse midwife only delivers babies, the truth is they provide care to women across their lifespan. This includes reproductive health, family planning, preconception, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and menopause.

Practically speaking, a nurse midwife may perform these duties:

  • Perform pelvic exams and pap smears
  • Educate about nutrition, fertility, and pregnancy
  • Assist with childbirth and newborn care
  • Provide breastfeeding support

To learn more about what might be expected of you in this role, check out our sample job description for a nurse midwife.

What Are the Nurse Midwife Education Requirements?

When you are wondering how to become a nurse midwife, your very first step is to become a nurse. You have two main routes for this: selecting an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

After your nursing program, you’ll need to take the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain your registered nurse license. Start practicing as a RN and gain nursing experience. Many nurse midwife programs strongly encourage one to two years of nursing experience in labor and delivery before starting their program.

If you started your nursing career with an ADN, you’ll need to obtain a BSN. This is one requirement for entering your CNM program. Next, you can begin applying to nurse midwife programs.

You have two major options here: choose a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) nurse midwife program. A MSN program will take around two years to complete. A DNP program will take around three to four years to complete.

Ensure that the program you choose is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). This ensures the program you complete is of high-quality and will meet the requirements necessary to later receive your certification and license.

Get Your Nurse Midwife Certification

In this step, we will explain how to become a certified nurse midwife. Practicing legally as a CNM requires both an additional nursing certification and license.

To obtain your certification, you must take the national exam offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). Taking this test requires completion of nurse midwifery schooling and an unencumbered RN license.

Receiving your CNM license is not automatic — you must apply for it. Once you’ve passed your certification exam, you can then apply for your nurse midwifery license through your state.

To keep your license active, you will need to recertify every five years. As part of your license renewal, you may have to complete a continuing education course module or take a test to demonstrate competence.

What Skills Do Nurse Midwives Need?

In addition to the standard nursing skills as RNs possess, a nurse midwife should have these skills:

  • Strong, effective communication
  • Knowledge of surgical aseptic technique
  • Ability to perform obstetric procedures, like an episiotomy
  • Ability to perform ultrasounds and
  • Critical thinking and teamwork
  • Compassionate, caring, and empathetic
  • Robust evaluation skills

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Midwife?

As you ponder how to become a nurse midwife, naturally you wonder how long it will take. On average, it takes six to eight years. The exact amount of time for you will depend on your degree choice and route.

Where Can a Nurse Midwife Work?

Nurse midwives can find themselves working in a variety of settings from the delivery room in a hospital to a person’s home in the community.

Common workplaces includes:

  • Hospitals
  • Birthing centers
  • Obstetric and gynecologists office
  • Public health clinics
  • Private practice

What Does a Nurse Midwife Make?

The average nurse midwife salary is $122,450 annually. Certified nurse midwives who work in outpatient care centers can expect to make more — around $153,310. Whereas certified nurse midwives who work in offices of health practitioners (meaning not doctor’s offices) can expect to make around $71,580.

Start on the Path to Becoming a Nurse Midwife Today

If learning how to become a nurse midwife has inspired you to pursue this career path, IntelyCare can help you manage your work schedule with your schooling. Learn more about our flexible job opportunities and apply today.