Whether you’ve worked as a labor & delivery RN or volunteered as a doula, you’ll know in your heart when it’s time to step up to the DNP in nurse midwifery. If you’ve already done your DNP homework, feel free to skip ahead to our program listings. But if you’d like some practical advice on certification, degree choices, and DNP capstone projects, read on!
Becoming a Nurse Midwife
The Modern Nurse Midwife
Nurse midwives support women for their entire reproductive lives. From puberty and pregnancy to newborn care, sexual health, and menopause, nurse midwives often act as primary healthcare providers to families. They help healthy mothers with uncomplicated births and act as assistants to obstetricians and gynecologists in complex medical cases. As licensed APRNs, they have the ability to prescribe treatments, medications, therapies, and diagnostic measures.
DNP-trained nurse midwives focus on holistic care – the combination of expert clinical treatment with the unique needs of mothers, fathers, and babies. Whether they’re in rural outposts or massive urban hospitals, these savvy professionals have the skills to take on leadership roles and advocate for patient’s rights in a complicated healthcare system.
CNM Licensure & Certification Requirements
Many students pursue a DNP in order to become a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). Like other specialty titles (e.g. nurse anesthetist), this is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) qualification. CNMs are allowed to practice in birth centers, private homes, physician practices, and hospitals.
In order to be certified as a CNM and licensed in your state, you may be required to:
- Earn an accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing.
- Pass the NCLEX exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN) in the state in which you intend to practice.
- Earn a post-baccalaureate degree (e.g. the DNP or the MSN) from a nurse-midwifery program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
- Pass the national American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) exams.
- Maintain your certification & licensure through continuing education.
Please check with your school and your State Board of Nursing for more information. DNP programs should clearly state that they are ACME-accredited and able to prepare you for the AMCB exams.
Helpful Professional Organizations
- Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)
- American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM)
- American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
- International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)
- Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC)
- Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)
- National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM)
- North American Registry of Midwives (NARM)
The Nurse Midwife DNP
Typical DNP Curriculum
At the doctoral level, nurse midwifery programs focus on clinical competence, advanced medical science, leadership training, and cultural awareness. Some schools even have simulation facilities to complement your work in a real-world environment. Ask your program if it follows the ACNM Core Competencies, Standards for the Practice of Midwifery, and/or the ACNM Code of Ethics.
Good DNP programs will emphasize the “big picture.” In addition to courses such as epidemiology, reproductive endocrinology, and applied drug therapies, you may also be required to take classes in healthcare policy, social context, economics, and the primary care of women across their lifespan. While you’re planning your DNP capstone project, be prepared to show how you might apply your learning to system-wide changes within your environment.
Many applicants to DNP nurse midwifery programs have already worked as labor & delivery RNs. If you don’t have any experience of labor and delivery, you may wish to:
- Enroll in childbirth education classes
- Complete relevant training courses (e.g. fetal heart rate monitoring, neonatal resuscitation, etc.)
- Shadow a nurse midwife or labor & delivery RN
- Volunteer as a labor doula
- Attend “strip rounds” on an obstetric unit
Examples of DNP Capstone Projects
- Development of a Competency-Based Curriculum in the Active Management of the Third Stage of Labor for Skilled Birth Attendants. (Ohio State University)
- Human Milk Donation in the Pacific Northwest: Development and Implementation of the First Human Milk Depot in Western Washington. (University of Washington)
- Maternal Satisfaction with Induction of Labor: A Quality Improvement Initiative. (University of Cincinnati)
- Neonatal Resuscitation Training for the Home Birth and Birth Center Attendant: A Proposal for Improving Neonatal Outcomes. (Frontier Nursing University)
- Postpartum Breastfeeding Support: Promoting Infant Health. (University of Massachusetts Amherst)