More commonly referred to as Certified Nurse Midwife or CNM, a nurse midwife is a nursing professional that has been certified as an advance practice nurse. Primarily focused on the care of pregnant women who are good health and have excellent prospects of an uncomplicated pregnancy and easy delivery, midwives of this kind are fully trained registered nurses who have completed additional education and training that allow them to offer additional medical services. While the vast majority of nurse midwives are female, there are a few men who have entered the profession.
Unlike many other types of nurses, the nurse midwife is capable of acting as the primary healthcare provider for women. While many of these advanced practice nurses focus on women who are expecting, the typical nurse midwife may provide healthcare to females of any age. The scope of practice is often limited by regulations set in place by the local medical boards and state level departments that oversee healthcare within the jurisdiction.
In terms of training, anyone wishing to enter this particular field must be fully trained as a registered nurse, and maintain nursing credentials within the jurisdiction where he or she plans on practicing. In the United States, many state level health departments require that the candidate hold a master’s degree in a relevant field, such as a Master of Science in Nursing. Specific graduate programs for nurse midwives are under development at a number of medical schools, and are likely to become commonplace in the next decade.
Often, a nurse midwife has the authority to write prescriptions for a limited range of medications, and is capable of caring for patients with minor ailments. Depending on where the midwife is practicing, he or she may work in a hospital, a private clinic, or even conduct a private practice. Nurse midwives are often connected with birthing centers. Some midwives are also trained and licensed in the care of newborns, a wide range of therapeutic techniques, and even basic counseling.
While a nurse midwife may work as part of a staff or even independently, it is not unusual for this type of healthcare professional to also work closely with a particular obstetrician or gynecologist, depending on the particular focus of the midwife. At times, this working relationship may be strictly on a consultation basis, or be in the form of a partnership.
While midwifery has a long history of being involved in the processes of labor and delivery, the profession began to lose popularity during the latter part of the 19th century. The enhanced training that is necessary to become a CNM today, coupled with the desire of some women to have their children in an environment other than a hospital, has spurred a resurgence of interest in this particular medical profession. Since the 1990’s, the number of women who choose to engage in natural childbirth with the assistance of a nurse midwife has increased significantly.