Very commonly used around the world, midwives serve very important roles when it comes to prenatal care, births, and newborn care and assessment. While there is not as much of a demand for these professionals in the United States, job prospects are increasing. The number of midwifery schools is growing, and the career appears to be a good prospect for the future. Here are some things to consider when choosing midwifery schools and pursuing a career as a midwife.
A midwife provides comprehensive care for women and newborns, tending to the physical and emotional needs of both during the entire process. Midwives foster self-determination throughout the childbearing and birth process. They specialize in normal births and refer more complicated pregnancies and deliveries to other medical professionals. They attend midwifery schools to learn how to provide prenatal care, lead mothers through labor, deliver babies, and take care of moms and babies post birth. They are trained to recognize warning signs and abnormal conditions that warrant an advanced medical professional’s attention. They practice in patients’ homes, birth centers, and hospitals.
There are two main categories of midwives. While the two are very similar, they are distinguished by the amount of education they have received:
- Direct-entry midwives: Midwives who have entered midwifery schools and programs without having received prior medical credentials are considered direct-entry midwives. They usually become certified professional midwives (CPM) through the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). The certification process includes passing the Portfolio Evaluation Process and the NARM national examination. CPMs are state licensed and must renew their licenses every three years. Each state has separate guidelines for CPMs.
- Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM): Certified nurse midwives are registered nurses before entering midwifery schools. Many have received their bachelor’s degree in nursing. They often receive the certification of CM (certified midwife) from the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM). Certification requires gradation from an accredited midwifery school and passage of the national examination administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). CMs can practice anywhere in the United States after receiving their credentials. The number of CMs outnumbers direct-entry midwives in the United States.
It’s important for prospective midwives to acquire an education from an accredited midwifery school. Only graduates of accredited programs are eligible to receive certification as CPM from NARM. Federal financial aid, such as the Pell grant and federal student loans, is available to students attending accredited colleges and programs. Students who enroll in programs that are not accredited are not eligible for federal or state financial aid. Accredited midwifery schools provide quality improvement processes that include self-evaluation and feedback from peers, educators, and administrators. Additionally, an accredited program lives up to the standards, quality, and levels of accountability to students, families, state and federal agencies, and the public. Midwives who enter a direct-entry school may expect to attend school for at least three years. Many accredited programs offer on-site and distance learning opportunities.
Life as a midwife after graduating from one of many midwifery schools can be quite lucrative, although it promises to be busy. Most midwives are on call approximately 54 hours per week. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of midwives in the U.S. was between $79,000 and $89,000 annually in 2008.
Midwives receive between $2,000 and $4,000 for each birth they oversee. Many moms-to-be in the U.S. see several advantages to hiring a midwife to oversee the birth of their children. Advantages include:
- Cultural competence
- Health education
- One-on-one relationships
- Care to vulnerable populations
- Use of alternative and complementary therapies
- Advocacy of informed choice
Midwifery schools teach all of these issues and skills and prepare their graduates for successful careers that are poised to expand in the next several years.