So you want to be a Midwife? I must warn you the road of midwifery is not an easy one. In fact, you may have to be half mad to desire it. There will be late nights, missed holidays, and time away from loved ones. It will require not only sacrifice through time but heart and soul. It will be harsh, yet beautiful all at once. You will never be bored and the excitement will always be present. It will be unpredictable and a venture into the unknown everyday. You will cry. You will laugh. You will connect with strangers in a way that is out of this world. Burn out is prevalent. However, it is an experience that only a small few have the honor to have. You will believe in miracles again and see just how resilient we are, even from birth. If you just think it’s a great way to make money, PLEASE believe me there are easier ways and run now! If you are intrigued and captivated by the beauty of birth, something so raw and real in our times of advanced technology. If you believe that women are powerful and fearless. If you believe that women deserve to take control of their bodies again, then I invite you to consider the field of midwifery. I will share my path to becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife. There is another route to midwifery that exists, known as a Certified Professional Midwife (not a nurse), but I will not touch on this process, as I do not have personal experience with it. The main difference between the two is that only the Nurse Midwife can work in the hospital setting while still having the option to do out of hospital births. This allows for more job opportunities, flexibility, and pay.
The first step to becoming a Nurse Midwife is to become a nurse. Since you will eventually need to gain an advanced degree to specialize in midwifery, you want to make sure you receive your Bachelor of Science in Nursing. If you start with an Associate degree, you will first have to earn your Bachelor degree before obtaining a Master or Doctorate. However, if you already have an Associate degree or feel it would be more obtainable at this moment, some schools offer bridge programs to go from an Associate to Master degree. I personally attended Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland to pursue my Bachelor degree. This was a second Bachelor degree for me, as I already had a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. It is becoming more common these days for individuals to enter the nursing profession as a career change. Though I never worked in psychology, these principles definitely help me communicate with families during difficult situations. Although Johns Hopkins is on the expensive side of nursing schools, I was afforded opportunities that would not have been available elsewhere. Instead of doing a typical nursing externship during the summer between my first and second year, I received a generous grant to spend 10 weeks in South Africa researching domestic violence and the role of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. This experience was priceless and made me realize that nurses have unlimited career paths beyond the bedside or clinical care. Additionally, I was blessed with the opportunity to complete my senior nursing practicum at a hospital in Abu Dhabi. Johns Hopkins had a partnership with this hospital in Abu Dhabi, which made this exchange possible. I am not saying you have to attend a university as expensive to have a worthwhile nursing education. I honestly believe the education is similar to other programs, but I did want to point out benefits I received unique to my program. At the end of the day, choose the school that works well for you, your schedule, and budget.
Once you finish nursing school, sit for the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), and apply to be a registered nurse in your state, you can either work as a nurse for a while or go straight to graduate school. I personally went straight through because I knew I wanted to be a Nurse Midwife and didn’t desire to delay the process. However, there is nothing wrong with getting your toes wet first by actually working in the field and determining if a certain specialty is for you. I struggled more in Midwifery school than those who had previous L&D experience, but now that I am actually in practice, I do not see much difference. Again, choose the right decision for you. I attended Emory University in Atlanta to pursue my Master of Science in Nursing with a specialty in Midwifery. Since I’m crazy, I also obtained a Master of Public Health with a specialty in Global Health. Emory is also very expensive and honestly did not offer those unique opportunities I had at Johns Hopkins. It really wasn’t worth the money for me, but I was blessed with a scholarship. Almost all the midwives I work with received their education through Frontier Nursing University. It is a reputable online program and is convenient if there are no midwifery schools in your area. However, you do have to find your own preceptor, which can be extremely frustrating. When I graduated, you only needed to complete 40 births, but I strongly recommend doing way more than this.
After you have put in the years and work attaining your degrees, the next step is to take the certification exam through the American Midwifery Certification Board (almost $500!). I literally took the exam two days after graduation and passed because the information was fresh in my mind. Once you are certified, you can then apply to become a registered Nurse Practitioner in your state. If it sounds like a lot, well it’s because it is. However, if this is truly your dream and you have weighed the pros/cons, then the profession needs you, especially if you are a woman of color. Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from childbirth complications than their white counterparts. This is an alarming and disgusting statistic that affects real lives. Sadly, the same racism that prevails in society translates into the labor room. One of the main ways to combat this issue is to train more women of color as midwives and OB/GYNs. If you feel this is your calling, please contact me for additional questions.
xoxo, Global Midwife