Understanding the Role of a Certified Nurse Midwife

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A certified nurse-midwife is a provider of primary gynecological healthcare to women of varying ages. CNMs are advanced practice nurses as they graduate with a master's or another higher-level education program. Their role goes beyond helping women to deliver and caring for a baby. They provide lifelong reproductive health care to women whether they are pregnant or not.

Many confuse CNM with certified midwives (CM) who help women give birth and attend to newborns. A CNM is a registered nurse and a graduate from a nurse-midwifery program. Certified midwives do not go through the path of becoming registered nurses. Instead, they study to earn a health-related degree and graduate from a midwifery program. CNMs and CMs sit for similar certification exams to get authority to practice, but the designation of their professions is different.

How to become a certified nurse-midwife

Certified nursing midwifery is an advanced practice that requires a nurse to complete another career-relevant educational program. A certified nurse-midwife went to NP school and earned an MSN degree. Before progressing to study, a Master of Science degree in nursing requires someone to the beholder of bachelor's degrees, preferably Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After the degree, anyone intending to become a CNM takes the first step by becoming a registered nurse since it is an entry requirement to a nurse-midwifery program. Someone becomes a registered nurse (RN) by completing an accredited nursing program and pass a licensure exam to earn practicing certification as a nurse in a state.

An MSN degree helps to enhance the RN competencies and demonstrate greater breadth and depth of knowledge. The graduate degree also increases skills and the ability to make interventions. The MSN degree must be from an accredited school and program. A registered nurse intending to work as a certified nurse-midwife should also have served in a labor and delivery unit for around a year or more.

Work of a certified nurse-midwife

A CNM's primary role is to offer advice, intervention, or treatment. They specialize in gynecological matters, including pregnancy, childbirth as well as postpartum health care. In addition, CNMs handle reproductive health issues from adolescence, pregnancy, motherhood, and post-menopause care. The education and qualification of CNMs make the advanced practice registered nurses. They can prescribe medication and get more responsibilities than the registered nurses. Apart from attending to women, some CNMs also assist male patients with reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections.

The core duties of a certified nurse-midwife are:

  • Educate women about birthing options
  • Assist mothers through their attempts to conceive, planning pregnancy and birth
  • Teach partners about family planning, contraceptives, and reproductive health
  • Monitor health of pregnant mothers and fetal growth
  • Treat pregnancy-related illnesses
  • Prepare women for labor
  • Perform low-intervention techniques like inducing labor or pain relief during labor
  • Assist with the delivery process at hospitals or birthing centers
  • Assist new mothers with self-care, breastfeeding, and postpartum healthcare
  • Write prescriptions
  • Perform physical exams
  • Order lab tests and review the results

CNMs, because of their advanced practice role, can perform administrative duties like taking a history of a patient, handle appointments, and process payments. They can engage medical doctors and other specialists when needed during pregnancy or birth. CNMs, while working with obstetricians and gynecologists, perform diagnostic tests and prescribe treatment. Some states allow them to work independently. CNMs working alone can request, perform and interpret diagnostic tests to prescribe medicine.

Where to find certified nurse-midwives

You can get a certified nurse-midwife practicing at these places providing healthcare.

  • Hospitals
  • Community healthcare clinics
  • Physician offices
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Patient homes

Some of the CNMs join policy-making, administrative and advocacy roles. These are professionals with an interest in working outside the clinical settings in hospitals and birth centers. For instance, CNM with a passion for safety during labor can use the training and experience to advocate for an initiative that improves patients' lives.

Many pregnant women prefer working since they provide more personalized care and approach birth more naturally than the traditional obstetricians. In addition, they usually have the time to include a woman's family in care plans during pregnancy, delivery, and aftercare.

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