Your career as a nurse midwife
As a nurse, you likely chose your job because you have a passion for helping people. However, at some point in your career, you may choose to specifically focus on the care of a particular group of patients with particular medical needs. While workplace experience can go along way in the pursuit of some positions, a higher degree can be invaluable – and sometimes required – for some more senior roles.
If you are interested in playing a more active role in pregnancy-related care, consider earning a Master of Science in Nursing to pursue a career as a nurse midwife.
What is a nurse midwife?
As a registered nurse, you may already work with expectant mothers and newborns. However, a position as a nurse midwife takes that role to the next level. As opposed to simply working shifts in labor and delivery or a similar department, in a midwife role you will coordinate and provide patient services related to women’s reproductive health, including prenatal exams and menopausal care. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, when you work in midwifery, you will also be qualified to:
- Prescribe contraceptives and other medications.
- Provide health education.
- Aid in labor and delivery.
- Order necessary lab tests.
- Provide gynecological care.
The role of a nurse midwife is similar to that of a gynecologist or an obstetrician, but these positions differ in a few key ways. Because nurse midwives have a master’s degree in nursing, as opposed to attending medical school, they are equipped to aid in natural pregnancies and deliveries, but are not qualified to perform emergency procedures, such as caesarian section surgeries.
With a growing shortage in health care professionals, many organizations are welcoming midwives into the ranks as valuable staff members in labor and delivery.
“There are no significant drawbacks and many benefits to engaging with midwives to join our care teams,” Mark DeFrancesco, the president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in an interview with The Atlantic. “We need to be able to care for America’s pregnant women, and as long as the number of obstetricians remains plateaued, part of the answer lies in midwives.”
With the popularity of shows such as “Call the Midwife” and the growing frequency of home births, more and more women are also exploring the option of having a midwife during their labor and delivery, wherever they choose to have their children. According to U.S. News & World Report, many women report that they opted for a midwife because they received more one-on-one attention from their provider.
Starting your career
To pursue a career as a nurse midwife, the first step is typically to become a registered nurse and complete a bachelor of science in nursing degree. At that point you will generally gain workplace experience – preferably in labor and delivery – and then pursue a higher degree. However, some programs do accept RNs without a bachelor’s to their MSN or doctorate programs, allow them to earn both their undergraduate and graduate degree in a single program.
Whether you already earned your bachelor or are starting with your RN certification alone, you will need to continue your education by completing your MSN, or possibly a doctorate degree, to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
Now is a promising time to pursue a career as a nurse midwife. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for advanced practice nurses – nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners – is expected to rise dramatically. Between 2014 and 2024, the organization projected an increase of 31 percent that will bring an additional 53,400 jobs.