Midwife literally means “with women,” and for centuries, those who fill this role have helped women during childbirth. Today, they perform that vital and rewarding function along with any number of other activities to help women throughout their childbearing years.
Nurse midwife is a profession well-suited to individuals who are compassionate and want to offer a caring and individualized alternative to established medical options. And what could be more rewarding professionally and personally than the joy of helping bring new life into the world?
Career Outlook for Nurse Midwives
As of May 2012, there were more than 5,700 nurse-midwives employed nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The profession is one of several advanced-practice nursing specialties that fall under the broad employment category of registered nurse.
The BLS does not report projected employment growth for nurse-midwives specifically. However, in general, jobs for registered nurses are expected to increase by 26% nationwide from 2010 to 2020, much higher than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Men account for about 2% of certified nurse-midwives, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Job Duties for Nurse Midwives
Traditionally known for the support and care they provide to women during pregnancy and childbirth, nurse-midwives have assumed a more expansive role in recent years. In addition to providing family planning counseling, they also perform gynecological exams and preventive health screening.
Nurse midwives also provide care for newborns and instruct new mothers on proper breastfeeding techniques and other parenting issues. They order, review and interpret lab tests, and prescribe medications.
In 2010, certified nurse-midwives attended 7.6% of the approximately 3.9 million hospital births in the United States, up from 6% in 2005, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority (96%) of births attended by nurse-midwives occurred in hospitals.
Nurse-midwives work in a variety of settings, including private practices, health clinics, hospitals and birth centers.
Salary Range for Nurse Midwives
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nurse-midwives earned a median annual wage of $89,600 as of May 2012, with the top 10% earning more than $119,000. On average, wages were higher for nurse-midwives employed by home healthcare providers and outpatient centers.
Various factors can influence salary ranges and employment opportunities, including the type of employer (for example, hospital versus private clinic), and the candidate’s level of education and work experience.
Certification and Training for Nurse Midwives
More than 80% of certified nurse-midwives have a master’s degree and almost 5% have a doctorate, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Since 2010, a graduate degree has been a requirement in order to practice as a nurse midwife. Various educational options are available, including for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree or a nursing diploma. Coursework in biology, chemistry, microbiology and women’s studies are useful in preparing undergraduate students for an advanced degree.
In order to become a certified nurse-midwife (CMN), registered nurses must graduate from an accredited nurse midwifery program and pass the national certification exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board.