A midwife is a medical professional who provides direct care, support, and education to women before, during, and after giving birth. Most midwives are registered nurses who have obtained extensive educational, training, and licensing credentials. It is also possible to obtain a midwife license in some states and countries by taking courses and certification exams at an accredited midwifery school and completing an apprenticeship. Regardless of the educational path taken, midwives become essential members of a team of health care professionals for pregnant women.
The majority of these professionals, especially those working in the United States, choose to become nurse-midwives. A prospective nurse midwife is usually required to complete a four-year bachelor's program in nursing as well as a two-year advanced practice degree. He or she must pass a national examination to gain registered nurse credentials, work as an intern or apprentice for up to two years in an emergency room or general hospital setting, and complete additional midwife training in a birthing clinic, hospital, or gynecologist's office. After earning a degree and completing training, a new nurse is required to pass an exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) before gaining an official midwife license.
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Some countries and states allow individuals to enter the field of midwifery without becoming advanced practice nurses. People have the option of studying independently, becoming an apprentice to an established, certified midwife, or attending courses at an accredited midwifery school. The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) is a professional organization that accredits midwifery schools and provides students with the opportunity to take the AMCB licensing test upon graduation. Apprenticeships and midwife school programs vary in length, though most take about two to three years to complete.
Many other countries feature programs and certification boards similar to the AMCB that set forth midwife license requirements. In the United Kingdom, for example, an individual is typically expected to complete a 32-month training programs at an accredited vocational school to earn a midwife license. Graduates must take exams and meet the qualifications set forth by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in order to earn their licenses and begin working independently.
A professional is usually required to take refresher courses and periodical recertification exams to maintain his or her midwife license. NARM requires individuals to attend continuing education workshops and receive peer reviews every three years. A midwife may also retake the NARM written licensing exam in order to keep his or her license. Continuing education is essential for professionals to stay up-to-date on medical and technological advances and ensure they are providing the best possible care for their patients.