Becoming a midwife has never been a more natural choice for compassionate, committed individuals interested in working with expectant mothers and newborns. In fact, both the health care and the alternative medicine industries are thriving, making a midwife career not only a rewarding career choice, but also a very promising one.
But figuring out how to become a midwife can seem confusing since midwifery is still just starting to blossom as a career in the United States. Following these 10 tips can help you get started on the right track.
1. Imagine Yourself Becoming a Midwife
Can you imagine yourself guiding a first-time mother through her labor and delivery experience? Do you get excited at the thought of listening to a fetal heart rate monitor, measuring prenatal growth signs and talking with moms and dads about the transition into parenthood? Are you the kind of person who can handle being on-call on evenings, weekends and holidays? Take the time to imagine yourself becoming a midwife to see if it agrees with who you are.
2. Get Educated About Natural Childbirth
The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) states that its mission is to "promote the health and well-being of women and infants." And this is done "through the development and support of the profession of midwifery as practiced by certified nurse-midwives, and certified midwives." Along these lines, different midwifery practices can have different views on aspects of natural childbirth such as un-medicated births, locations and physician involvement. Knowing where you stand on these issues will help you choose a path that will be most satisfying to you in the long run.
3. Take a Holistic Approach
Nurse-midwives specialize in reproductive health, but they are trained to provide care for women from puberty through menopause. So keep in mind that, while a good portion of your time will be spent administering prenatal, delivery and postpartum care, you will also provide primary health care, routine gynecological care and contraception advice to women of all ages.
4. Learn the Difference between CNMs and CMs
Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses (RNs) who are also trained and certified in midwifery. Certified midwives (CMs) take the same midwifery examination through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), but they are not registered nurses. The CM credential is currently only recognized in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, so getting your bachelor's degree in nursing is the most widely recognized way to start your midwifery education.*
5. Decide Which Work Environment You Prefer
One of the benefits of becoming a midwife is that you have the flexibility to work in a variety of locations. Over 95 percent of babies delivered by CNMs in the U.S. are born in hospitals,** but CNMs can work in private practices with physicians or other CNM/CMs, at birth centers, or in clinics, military bases, or homes, depending on the laws that regulate each state. So decide which work environment you prefer so you can find a location and program that fits your career wants and needs.
6. Determine Which Type of Program Is Best For You
Determining how to become a midwife can seem difficult at first glance. But once you begin to understand the big picture, it becomes clearer. The most direct method is to get your Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN), then complete a graduate degree program in midwifery to become a nurse-midwife. But options are available for RNs without bachelor's degrees, non-nursing students with bachelor's degrees in other disciplines, health practitioners with other graduate degrees, and more.
7. Find an ACME Accredited Nurse-Midwifery Program
Learning how to become a midwife starts with finding a midwifery program that will meet your needs, fit your budget and help you accomplish your professional goals. Finding a program that's accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) will ensure that you receive a thorough education and provide you with the opportunity to get certified by the AMCB.
8. Look for Likeminded Faculty
Nurse-midwives share a foundation of excellent advanced training, but not all practice in the same way. If you are passionate about drug-free delivery, look for faculty members who share your convictions. But if more personalized care and longer prenatal appointments are what draw you to the profession, ask questions to be sure you'll learn from professors who focus on these aspects.
9. Choose a School with a Good AMCB Certification Exam Passage Rate
The AMCB administers the exam that all CNMs and CMs must pass in order to become certified. Attending a nurse-midwife school with a high exam passage rate increases the likelihood that you will receive a high quality education that will help you pass the certification exam when the time comes.
10. Talk to the Financial Aid Director
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reported that in 2011, over $15 million in active grants were dispersed to health care professions, including maternal and child health care. Scholarships, loans, grants and loan repayment programs are also available to midwifery students. Talk to the financial aid director at your school to learn about all the options you have.
* Note: Other midwifery titles, such as licensed midwife (LM), certified professional midwife (CPM) and lay midwife, do exist. Becoming a midwife with one of these titles means you will likely practice outside of hospital settings, depending on the laws that govern the state in which you practice.
** Source: American College of Nurse-Midwives