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Midwives are caregivers and medical professionals who employ a holistic approach to pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal care of women and infants. Two different certifications exist for midwives. The first is Certified Midwife (CM). The CM credential does not require a nursing background, but it is not legal to practice midwifery under this designation in the majority of states. For those who want the flexibility to practice anywhere in the United States, the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) certificate is the best choice. The CNM certification requires a background in nursing.
Whichever route is selected, candidates must first complete an academic program in midwifery that is approved by the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) Division of Accreditation (DOA). Those without a nursing background must have a bachelor's degree with a focus on science courses such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy before entering a midwife program. If prerequisites are not satisfied with the candidate's bachelor's degree program, then some courses may have to be taken before attending a midwife school. Programs for CMs are usually about three years long, and cover the same material found in a certified nurse midwife program.
For those seeking certification as a Certified Nurse Midwife, a nursing degree must be completed as well. Every midwife must obtain at least a bachelor's degree and many complete a bachelor's degree in nursing to become a Registered Nurse (RN), then complete midwifery requirements in a master's degree program. Currently, other options are a post-baccalaureate certificate, and some continue into a PhD program. By 2010, every certified nurse midwife entering the field will be required to complete a graduate program.
Once an approved academic program is completed, candidates may then take the national certification exam. Upon passing the examination, candidates are awarded either the Certified Midwife or Certified Nurse Midwife credential. These certifications are given by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), and they are valid for eight years.
During the eight year period, midwives must complete continuing education credits. This is called the Certification Maintenance Program (CMP). If the continuing education requirements are met, a new license will be granted at the end of the eight year period. If not, no new license will be issued until the midwife once again takes and passes the national certification exam. As with any medical profession, it is key that certified nurse midwives stay current on new techniques and procedures to ensure their patients receive the best possible care available.