Many people who choose to become nurse-midwives do so because they value the long-term relationships they develop with their patients, the holistic approach to obstetrical care and childbirth, and the autonomy to exercise hard-earned clinical judgment in treatment decisions for those in their care. The number of women choosing nurse-midwives for their maternity care has risen sharply in the past decade; in fact, midwives now deliver 24 percent of all the newborns in the state of New Mexico and perform about one in eight vaginal deliveries in the U.S. overall.
Job Outlook for Nurse-Midwives
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for nurse-midwives will grow 31 percent between 2012 and 2022, far more than for most other jobs. There are several reasons for this incredible growth; perhaps chief among them is the skyrocketing rate of Cesarean births in the United States. In 1965, C-sections accounted for less than 5 percent of all deliveries, a figure that soared to one in three by 2012. Women today want maternity care that supports their own ability to give birth naturally.
Other factors contributing to the increasing demand for midwives are contained in the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010. The law expanded coverage for birthing centers and midwives under Medicaid and increased reimbursement rates to equal that of physicians. In addition, the law forbids insurance companies from discriminating against any licensed healthcare provider such as a certified nurse midwife.
Preparing for a Career as a Nurse Midwife
Despite its name, a nurse midwife does not just provide maternity care for patients. The nurse midwife is a primary care provider for women throughout their lifetime: They perform physical exams, order tests, prescribe medication, and provide contraception counseling and gynecological care in addition to prenatal care and care of the newborn after birth.
Nurse-midwives have a higher level of autonomy than many other nurse practitioner roles; even though most nurse-midwives will deliver care in a hospital environment, many practice in outpatient birthing centers or even attend home births. For this reason, most nurse midwife programs require a bachelor’s degree, plus strongly recommend a full year of clinical experience in maternal/child nursing, to qualify for admissions. Programs typically take between two and three years to complete. Nurse-midwives can expect to complete ongoing continuing education units as part of their credentialing.
Salary Outlook for Nurse-Midwives
Salaries for nurse-midwives have been steadily rising, likely due to the increased demand for qualified practitioners. In 2012, the median annual income for a certified nurse midwife was just over $89,000, a figure that has risen to nearly $96,000 as of April 2015. The top 10 percent of earners can expect salaries in excess of $115,000 per year. In addition, most nurse-midwives receive excellent benefits packages, with a median value of about $36,500 annually.
For confident and experienced nurses with a strong interest in women’s health, a career as a certified nurse midwife can be extremely rewarding, both professionally and financially.