What is a Certified Nurse Midwife?

As a field, nursing provides enormous latitude for specializations, such as that of a certified nurse midwife. This avenue of study incorporates ongoing patient care with aspects of child delivery. Practitioners also focus attention on the details of health for both mother and child during pregnancy. While many nursing students may include elements of this field in their education, as a discipline, midwifery requires certification from a recognized regulatory body. This article explores the duties and details of the profession.

Professional Duties

While this is a specialization, it belongs to a group of fields known as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), which includes the professions of nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist. They provide care for women of childbearing age, successfully blending the duties of a registered nurse with specialist care provided by gynecologists and obstetricians. And, while their primary focus remains on mothers during pregnancy and delivery, they may even offer immediate care for infants after birth.

Because they tend to be most needed in areas that are underserved by other medical professionals, a nurse-midwife may work in both rural and urban environments. Their specialized and advanced training in feminine medicine suite them for this role and they are often called upon to conduct routine gynecological exams, to diagnose issues that require further treatment for a successful pregnancy, and to refer patients who need the care of a specialist.

While they do tend to practice their profession with women who are actively pregnant, their field enables them to support and explore women’s health issues in patient populations ranging from the early teen years to women undergoing menopause. According to Nurse Advisor Magazine, this ranges from conducting routine examinations and interpreting medical histories to delivering babies and counseling or educating patients on an individual or group basis.

Education and Additional Certification Requirements

As stated in the credentialing guidelines of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, any individual seeking to become a certified nurse midwife must attain special accreditation. While their degree’s course of study prepares them for general practice, with specialized coursework pertaining to women’s health and wellbeing as well as active child delivery knowledge, state regulations vary. For example, in some states, they are permitted to practice independently and prescribe medications. In others, they are not.

The Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education provides accreditation for programs that offer highly specialized educational tools in addition to rigorous training for all registered nurses. Once an individual graduates from the program of their choice, they must pass a national certifying exam, allowing them to practice in the United States. Their colleagues who focus solely on midwifery will take the same certifying exam upon graduation but will bear the more straightforward title of a certified midwife, a designation that permits less professional latitude.

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Nursing is a rewarding and beneficial career. While some students may know precisely the direction in which they wish to guide their studies, there is always an opportunity to redirect specialization later in one’s career. Registered nurses with years of experience and individuals just beginning their scholarly work may find that the professional career of a certified nurse midwife provides them with both the latitude to promote women’s health via general practice among their patient groups or to finely focus their energies in the realm of pregnancy and delivery of healthy children.