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About the Midwifery Profession

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs)

The practice of nurse-midwifery was established in the United States in the 1920s by such early leaders as Mary Breckinridge and Hattie Hemschemeyer; since then nurse-midwives have been recognized for their contributions to reducing infant and maternal mortality, premature births, and low birth weight rates. Their skills as primary care providers are evidenced by their low rates of infant mortality, cesarean birth, episiotomy, and use of epidural anesthesia and their high rates of success in vaginal birth after cesarean. These facts are made more impressive when considering that 70% of women who receive care from nurse-midwives are considered vulnerable to poor health outcomes by virtue of age, socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity or location of residence.

Certified midwives (CMs)

The mechanisms to educate and credential certified midwives (CMs) were approved in 1994. These standards were developed in order to ensure that CMs are educated in a manner that is equivalent to the CNM. CMs are not registered nurses, but may hold other professional designations as health care providers such as a physician assistant or physical therapist. Licensed to practice in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, individuals choosing this career path are pioneers in the profession, much like the early nurse-midwives who practiced in the U.S.

Rewards of a Career in Midwifery

Women, children, and families have better lives because of the work of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives. If you want to make a difference-and have a positive influence on health care-the midwifery profession is for you.

Caring for women during labor and birth is a centerpiece of the professional experience of many certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives. There are, however, a variety of career options for CNMs/CMs from clinical practice, education, administration or research to involvement in policy and legislative affairs. A career as a CNM/CM offers many roads to personal accomplishment and professional recognition.

  • You can provide primary health care to women for comprehensive gynecologic and maternity care and have the responsibility and accountability for your practice.
  • You can use your knowledge and skills to help women to realize personal fulfillment with their labor and birth. Also, through the art of midwifery you reduce the need for high-tech interventions for most women. But, when necessary, you are trained to make the latest in safe scientific procedures available to assist a normal birth process.
  • You can share your professional health care abilities by teaching at a university in schools of nursing, public health, medicine, and allied health.
  • You can conduct clinical research on such key topics as the safety, health benefits and cost-effectiveness of non-medical and medical interventions; maternal and infant health care; HIV/AIDS; new contraceptive methods; breast-feeding; and gynecological care.
  • You will have the authority in most states to write prescriptions for many of the medications and health care products needed in your practice.
  • You can become active in local and national legislative affairs and be a policy maker for health care reform.
  • You can empower women to take more active roles in making decisions about their health care and lifestyle habits.
  • You can play a key role in reducing the maternal and infant death rate in this country and in the world.
  • You can use your business and administrative skills in directing a nurse-midwifery practice in a community, birth center or hospital.
  • You will have the opportunity to work in collegial relationships with physicians, nursing specialists, and other health care professionals.

As a CNM or CM, you can choose any one or a combination of these career paths to design a career that is optimal for you.


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