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What is a Certified Nurse Midwife

A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is an advanced practice nurse who cares for women before, during and after pregnancy. They assist in the delivery of infants and provide care for the woman and infant after delivery. They may also provide care to women throughout their lifespan providing gynecologic exams and well-women checks. CNMs are an integral part of the healthcare team and work in collaboration with obstetric and gynecologic physicians. In some states, they can even practice independently, but would likely still be part of a practice of healthcare providers.

CNM Job Description

Nurse midwives work in various healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics or physician's offices. They work in collaboration with obstetric and gynecologic physicians. In caring for patients, CNMs are licensed to assess, diagnose and prescribe medications, therapies or diagnostic testing. They may perform procedures such gynecologic exams, pap-smears, or basic ultrasounds. An important part of a CNMs duties is educating women and their families about preventative health topics, what to expect during and after pregnancy, and provide guidance on women's health issues. CNMs generally work Monday through Friday, but may also see patients on weekends or cover for emergency calls depending on the job setting.

CNM Training

Training required to become a certified nurse midwife is lengthy. A master's degree is the entry level degree required to become a nurse midwife. Prior to being admitted to a program, completion of a bachelor's degree and licensure as a registered nurse is required. Often, several years of work experience are required. Experience in the labor and delivery or women's health fields is desirable. Most programs require applicants to have a satisfactory Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE) score, submit an application essay, and provide letters of recommendation. Nurse midwife programs are available in many, but not all states. Traditional programs have a classroom-based component with a hands-on clinical portion. Some schools offer online classes that can be taken remotely. This makes completing an advanced degree more convenient for a working nurse. However, the clinical component must be completed in person. The amount of required clinical hours varies by state. Clinicals are often completed at local hospitals, physicians' offices or community clinics. Clinical preceptors are usually nurse midwives, but also may be physicians. Upon successful completion of a program, students are eligible to sit for the American Midwifery Certification Board, Inc. (AMCB, Inc.) certification exam. In addition to certification, they must also apply for licensure as an advanced practice nurse in their particular state. Practicing nurse midwives are required to carry malpractice insurance. They must also complete continuing education courses on an annual basis in order to maintain their licensure and certification, the number of which varies by state.

Opportunities for Nursing Career Advancement

Some CNMs chose to pursue a doctoral degree, known as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The DNP is a relatively new degree, so there are not many programs to choose from at this time, however, the number is steadily increasing. Because the degree is classroom based only, with no clinical component, programs are often offered online making earning the degree easier for working CNMs. Due to the recent arrival of the DNP degree, no data is available whether a nurse midwife with a DNP is compensated at a higher level than a CNM with a master's degree, but the essential duties of the job are unchanged.

Salary for a Certified Nurse Midwife

Advanced practice nurses, such as nurse midwives, are the most autonomous providers in the nursing field. With autonomy comes a greater amount of responsibility and liability. Salary is commensurate with greater autonomy and responsibility. According to Payscale.com, in 2012, the salary range for a nurse midwife ranged from $58,693 to $105,904 with a median salary of $82,455. Salary varies based on years of experience, geographic location, and place of employment. Nurse midwives are advanced practice nurses with a specialization in caring for women before, during and after pregnancy. Becoming a nurse midwife can be a rewarding career for nurses who are interested in the women's health and the labor and delivery fields, but would like to have more autonomy and input into patient care. CNMs remain an integral part of the healthcare team for pregnant women and their families. They have the opportunity to greatly impact women's health and can help ensure a positive healthcare experience.

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