Nurse midwives are holistic, versatile practitioners who specialize in healthcare for women. Similar to nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives are advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs, who assess, diagnose, and manage their patient’s maladies. APRNs practice patient-centered care, which involves collaboratively working with patients to provide treatment that considers their values, concerns, and health goals. Certified nurse midwives, or CNMs, mainly focus on prenatal, labor, and postnatal care, but also provide primary care and gynecological services for women of all ages throughout the lifespan. These nurses are praised for reducing the rates of infant and maternal deaths, cesarean sections, and preterm births in their patients. Additionally, many midwives help bridge gaps in healthcare in the U.S. and across the world by serving women in underserved and vulnerable populations.
Students interested in pursuing a midwife career can enroll in traditional or online nurse midwifery programs. Nurse midwife programs prepare registered nurses for advanced nursing practice. Students take courses in gynecology and family planning, health assessment and promotion, pharmacology, and healthcare throughout the prenatal and postpartum periods. After completing the required curriculum and clinical experiences, students are typically eligible to sit for the American Midwifery Certification Board exam in order to become certified nursing midwives.
Is an Online Nurse Midwife Master's Program Right for Me?
Nurse midwives are compassionate, observant, and trustworthy practitioners who can work independently or with other health professionals. They provide their patients with intimate care while also maintaining a standard of professionalism. Aspiring CNMs should be flexible; their schedule can vary day to day. Some of their main duties include meeting with pregnant patients and discussing birth plans and health and emotional concerns. They also perform physical exams to monitor for mother and fetal health. Nurse midwives assist in the delivery process and work with obstetricians and other specialists to ensure the mother and baby are safe and comfortable. After the baby is born, midwives conduct afterbirth procedures, educate parents on caring for their newborn, and provide regular check-ups. CMNs also provide services outside of maternity care, such as gynecological exams and basic nutrition counseling.
How Do Online Nurse Midwife Classes Work?
Online midwifery programs are a good fit for professionals with busy schedules, especially registered nurses who still want to continue working while earning their advanced degree. Online students have the luxury of learning from wherever is most convenient for them, while still receiving a quality education. Students can also choose an online class structure that best fits their needs and learning style. Some distance programs operate on set schedules, in which students take certain courses each semester, while others allow students to learn at their own pace by choosing their own schedule and course load.
Online midwifery programs are a good fit for professionals with busy schedules, especially registered nurses who still want to continue working while earning their advanced degree.
Along with curriculum requirements, students typically must complete clinical hours in order to earn a CNM degree. Specific clinical requirements vary by program, but students can generally expect to complete several hundred hours in a supervised clinical setting. Online midwifery programs usually allow students to complete their hours in an approved hospital or another healthcare site in their home community. Programs may assign students to a clinical setting or allow students to identify their own. Students participate in clinical experiences such as preconception care visits, births, newborn assessments, and breastfeeding support visits.
Admissions Requirements for an Online Nurse Midwife Program
Online nurse midwife programs usually have a list of educational and licensure requirements that applicants must meet in order to gain acceptance. Generally, applicants must have an active registered nurse license in their state of residency. They are also required to hold a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA from an accredited college or university. Although most programs prefer applicants to hold a bachelor of science in nursing, some accept RNs with an associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing. Some programs will accept students who earned a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing, but these students typically need to have completed specific, relevant courses, such as human anatomy and statistics. These programs commonly allow bachelor’s degree holders without an RN license to enroll in an accelerated nursing education program before entering the midwife portion.
What to Expect From Online Nurse Midwifery Program
Students enrolling in online nurse midwifery programs should plan to commit at least two years to this degree. Details may vary depending on the program, but coursework typically covers key topics in nurse midwifery, such as antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum care; women’s health issues throughout the lifespan; and newborn care.
Curriculum for an Online Nurse Midwife Program
Online nurse midwife programs cover the stages of pregnancy, women’s health, health assessments, and midwifery management. Curricula may differ depending on the program, but they typically include general APRN courses and several midwife courses. A sample list of five common courses is listed below.
Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology
In this class, aspiring nurse midwives study the anatomy and physiological processes associated with healthy women across their lifespan. They also discuss human genetics, products of conception, and the maternity cycle.
Women’s Health for Nurse Midwifery
Examining a full range of health issues unique to women, this course discusses prevention, patient education, and the societal and political determinants of health in women. Students will also learn about health assessment and maintenance, as well as disease identification and treatment in female patients.
This course prepares students to care for antepartum women, which includes pregnant women who have not yet given birth. Students will learn how to treat normal antepartum women and those experiencing an at-risk pregnancy, while focusing on a collaborative management of interventions to achieve desired outcomes during pregnancy.
Intrapartum, Postpartum, and Newborn Care
Students in this class review, analyze, and apply the concepts of the nurse midwifery management process to the intrapartum and postpartum care of women and newborns. Midwife students will also review how to manage common emergencies and other potential complications in these stages.
Professional Issues for Nurse Midwifery
This course prepares students for the complex landscape of nurse midwifery before they enter the practice. They will review the professional, social, legal, ethical, political, and financial factors that affect midwifery and how these factors may influence their future jobs.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Nurse Midwife Degree?
Nurse midwife programs generally consist of 50-60 credits and take about two years to complete. Program length is typically longer for part-time students, who may take three or more years to complete the necessary coursework and clinical experiences.
A program’s learning format can also affect a student’s total time to graduation. Some programs are offered in cohort structures, which means learners complete the same courses at the same time as their peers. This structure is beneficial for students who learn best in a community setting, though it also means students cannot take more classes than is permitted per semester.
Individually paced nurse midwife programs allow students to choose their own course schedules. The number of clinical experience hours a student can complete each semester can also reduce or increase their program length. Some programs require students to complete up to 1,000 clinical hours before they can graduate, so students need to stick to a strict clinical schedule each semester in order to graduate in a timely manner.
How to Become a Midwife
Have a High School Diploma
The first step to becoming a nurse midwife is graduating from high school. Students must have a high school diploma in order to enter all postsecondary educational programs.
Become a Registered Nurse
The next step on the path to midwifery is to become a registered nurse, or RN. All U.S. states require RNs to have a nursing license. Nurses must graduate from an approved nursing program, then pass the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, to become licensed. Before taking the exam, candidates must apply for authorization to test from their state’s board of nursing or regulatory board. Other requirements for licensure vary by state, so students should check with their state’s board of nursing to ensure they meet all standards. Students can find a list of state nursing boards on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s website. After earning licensure, nurses may need to accrue a certain number of hours or years of professional work experience in order to be eligible for some graduate midwife programs. However, work experience is not a requirement for all nurse midwifery programs.
Earn a Master's Degree in Nurse Midwifery
The final degree an aspiring certified nurse midwife must earn is a master’s in nurse midwifery; 82% of CNMs have a master’s degree, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives. As of 2010, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement to practice as a CNM. Students should attend a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME), an accrediting agency for midwifery education programs recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Attending an accredited program is crucial because students must earn a graduate degree from an ACME-accredited program in order to seek certification after graduation. Students can find a list of traditional and online programs that the ACME accredits here.
Take the National Certification Test
After graduating from a nurse midwife program, students take a national certification test administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). AMCB certification is considered the gold standard, and most states require it for licensure. The AMCB provides a step-by-step exam application process on its website. Applicants must submit proof of RN licensure, and their program director must send a letter to the AMCB that confirms the applicant’s name, date of birth, and program completion date. Applicants have 24 months after they complete their program to pass the exam, and may take it a maximum of four times. The exam fee is $500, and candidates must pay this fee every time they retake the exam. Candidates take the exam on a computer at one of the 300 designated testing centers throughout the U.S. There is at least one site in every state, and centers are available Monday through Saturday. The exam consists of 175 questions in a multiple choice format and has a four-hour time limit. Test-takers receive an official score report at the testing center. Students can find more specific details about the exam here.
Maintain and Renew Certification
CNM certification lasts for five years. Nurse midwives must complete the AMCB Certificate Maintenance Program in order to renew their designation. Midwives have two options for maintaining the CNM. The first option is to complete three AMCB certificate maintenance modules during the five-year certification cycle, obtain 20 contact hours of approved continuing education units, and pay a $70 annual fee. The second option is to retake the national examination by the end of the fifth year of the certification cycle, which includes a $500 exam fee.
What Can I Do With an Online Nurse Midwife Degree?
Certified nurse midwives provide primary care to newborns and women. While labor and delivery nurses specifically help women in the birthing process, CNMs are advanced practice nurses that serve women throughout their lifespan. They provide pregnant women with prenatal, labor, and postpartum care. They also provide health education, counseling, and gynecological care to women of all ages. Their role in healthcare is very important because they help close the gap in primary care for women in rural and inner-city areas. CNMs work in many different settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, hospitals, health departments, outpatient care centers, and birthing centers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states employing the most midwives in 2017 were California, New York, Georgia, Florida, and Maryland.
Nurse midwives typically enjoy high-paying jobs, and their salaries increase with their number of years in the profession. The median salary for CNMs is more than $90,400, according to PayScale. Entry-level CNMs with up to five years of experience earn $85,000 annually, while mid-career professionals bring in about $91,000 each year. A midwife’s salary also depends on where they work. Those who work in ambulatory care or in a surgery center report the highest earnings at over $101,000, according to PayScale. Average pay is lowest among community and home health nurse midwives, who earn about $87,000 annually.
Certified Nurse Midwife Salary by Experience
|Entry-Level (0-5 years)||$85,000|
|Mid-Career (5-10 years)||$91,000|
|Experienced (10-20 years)||$100,000|
|Late Career (20+ years)||$104,000|