Interested in Becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife?

April 23, 2012 Guest Blogger 4 comments


Years before I became pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to see a midwife for my prenatal care. As a cancer survivor, it was important to me that the process was viewed as normal and not another medical condition. What I did not know was how profound my experience would be – so profound that I started a certified nurse midwife program at Emory University this spring. Whether you find yourself in a similar situation, or just want to learn more about how someone becomes a midwife, I invite you to continue reading.

What does a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) do?

A CNM is a nurse with graduate level training, education, and national certification in midwifery. A CNM cares for women from adolescence through menopause, with particular focus on the childbearing years and expertise in prenatal, antepartum (before labor), intrapartum (during labor), post-partum (after labor), and newborn care. They are trained in women’s health & gynecology, primary care, pharmacology, genetics, mental health, nutrition, and lactation. They are licensed to practice in all states in the U.S., usually independently or in collaboration with a physician. Certified nurse-midwives can be found in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, birth centers, and the home.

Steps to Become a CNM:

  1. You must have a Bachelors Degree. A CNM program is a graduate level program (Masters in Nursing (MSN)), so you must first have a Bachelors (undergraduate) Degree. Many programs prefer that you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
  2. You must be a Registered Nurse (RN). If you are an RN, but do not have a bachelors degree (i.e. if you have an Associates Degree (AD), you have a couple of options:
    • You can obtain a bachelors degree in nursing (this is the preferred way if you know you will pursue a MSN). There are many nursing programs that allow you to build upon the nursing degree you already have to earn a BSN.
    • You can obtain a bachelors degree in a non-nursing field. If you choose this option, be aware that you are eliminating some CNM programs that specifically require a BSN.
    • You can enter a direct-entry combination program where you earn your BSN first and then go directly into a CNM program.

    If you are not a registered nurse and do not want to become a nurse, there are non-nursing programs, like this one, that offers a Certified Midwife (CM) degree. A CM can practice only in the states of New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

  3. Experience in women’s care. This requirement varies depending on each individual program. Some require a certain number of years experience in labor and delivery, while some do not require any experience in the field. Experience in roles such as a doula, educator, public health expert, community volunteer, or nurse in another field are also often considered.
  4. Research accredited midwifery programs to find one that will meet your needs. You can see a complete listof accredited programs, as defined by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) here. Currently the only nurse-midwifery program in Georgia is at Emory University (where Anjli and Emile went!). However, many offer online courses, full or part-time study and some also have the option to continue your education with a Doctorate degree in Nursing (DNP). On-line programs allow you flexibility to choose to train clinically with a preceptor in your chosen city. Keep in mind that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has proposed a requirement for a DNP (rather than a MSN) for those seeking certification in advanced practice nursing (i.e. nurse midwifery, nurse practitioner) after the year 2015, although this is not a requirement currently.
  5. Once you find some prospective programs, visit their websites and view their specific requirements. Some may have minimum GPA and/or GRE score requirements (some have stopped requiring GRE scores all together), pre-requisite coursework, etc. Most programs require an official admissions application, recommendations from your employer and/or past course instructors, essays, and/or a faculty interview. Make sure you also research scholarship and financial aid opportunities at the individual schools. You may even qualify for tuition assistance through your employer.

An accredited CNM program is typically 3-4 semesters in length for full-time students. You will earn approximately 50 credit hours upon completion of the program along with hundreds of hours of clinical, hands-on experience. Clinical placement varies by semester and usually includes experience in multiple settings, such as provider’s offices, hospitals, and birth centers. You will complete coursework on topics, such as:

  • Women’s Health, including management of prenatal care, stages of labor, and newborn care
  • Theory and Research
  • Ethics
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Lactation
  • Embryology
  • Health Policy/Finance
Anjli Hinman, CNM attending a waterbirth

Several universities offer dual programs to combine nurse-midwifery with family nurse practitioner (Emory right here in Atlanta is one of them!), women’s health nurse practitioner, or public health programs. Upon successful completion of an accredited program, you will take the national licensing exam for midwives, the American Midwifery Certification Board exam. Once licensed, a CNM is legally able to practice midwifery in all states. Continuing education and license renewals are required every five years.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a certified nurse midwife, visit the following websites:

Certified nurse- midwives are not the only providers of midwifery care in the United States. Certified professional midwives (CPM) and direct-entry midwives (DEM) also serve women during their childbearing years. Scopes of practice, training, licensing, and practice settings do differ, and we hope to share with you more about midwifery as a cohesive profession in future blogs!

The midwives of Atlanta Birth Center plan to continue the tradition of training future certified nurse-midwives so women of Atlanta will continue to always have the option of midwifery care.

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