According to the American Midwifery Certification Board, there are about 12,218 certified nurse-midwives (CNM) or certified midwives (CM). Many are in clinical practice. More than half work primarily in an office or clinic environment, and physician practices and hospitals are the places where most CNMs are employed. At hospitals, CNMs see patients and attend deliveries on hospital grounds and use hospital-owned equipment for examinations and other procedures. Additional medical personnel are always available for emergency situations. Other nurse-midwives work in family planning clinics and other health care clinics and privately funded agencies. These nurse-midwives usually have relationships with specific hospitals and physicians in case of an emergency. Some nurse-midwives operate their own clinics and birthing centers, while others work independently and specialize in home birth deliveries.
Most nurse-midwives finish their formal education in nursing and midwifery before beginning work. They usually have some opportunities to work with patients as a student. Beginning midwives may also intern at a hospital or clinic to fulfill class requirements.
Nurse-midwives can begin their careers in various ways. Some may move from an internship to a full-time job when they complete their education requirements at a certain facility. Others may seek out a position through a professional midwifery organization or try for a job at a specific location that interests them. Finally, some nurse-midwives begin by working as nurses in other areas of health care and then move into midwifery as opportunities become available.
With experience, a nurse-midwife can advance into a supervisory role or into an administrative capacity at a hospital, family planning clinic, birthing center, or other facility. Many nurse-midwives choose to continue their education and complete Ph.D. programs. With a doctorate, a nurse-midwife can do research or teaching.
Nurse-midwives with advanced degrees may choose to move away from the day-to-day patient care and write for journals or magazines. They may also lean more toward the research aspects of prenatal care and obstetrics. Finally, nurse-midwives may prefer to apply their experience and education as a midwife toward other areas of medicine or hospital administration.
Tips for Entry
Through your network of friends and acquaintances, arrange to interview pregnant women about their thoughts and concerns about giving birth and the options they are considering.
After reviewing the Web sites of organizations that serve midwives and nurses, write one or more of these organizations an e-mail with any questions and concerns you have about their approach.
Visit the Midwives Alliance of North America's Web site to familiarize yourself with maternal and child health trends and advocacy issues.
Volunteer or acquire a part-time job at a hospital or health care facility.