What Does a Midwife Assistant Do?
A midwife assistant is a trained or semi-trained professional who works alongside a licensed midwife. Individual responsibilities vary based on the midwife and location, but they generally include office duties, simple tasks involving patients like taking blood pressure and weight, or assisting with actual births. In many cases the midwife assistant is also a midwife apprentice, meaning that she is in the process of becoming a trained midwife herself.
The primary job of a midwife assistant is to aid the midwife in tasks that she is too busy to tend to. This may include secretarial roles like scheduling appointments and fielding patient questions. She may also do billing tasks like contacting insurance companies and filing claims. In some cases the assistant may also handle simple tasks with patients like handling some appointments or attending appointments along with the midwife to learn the proper way of doing jobs like taking blood pressure, listening to the baby’s heart rate, and checking the patient’s weight.
Many times the midwife assistant will also attend births along with the midwife to handle certain tasks during labor and delivery. These may include tracking labor contractions, keeping information needed for the birth certificate such as time of birth, and helping make the mother comfortable. The level of responsibility and duties for an assistant will depend on the level of training and experience.
Assistants who work as apprentices generally finish training beforehand in midwifery, nursing, or both. Trained nurses are generally able to handle many medical situations, whereas lesser trained assistants may have to be accompanied physically by a midwife in order to perform procedures or advise patients. Regulations governing assistants in various roles vary based on location. In some states, no prior training may be necessary in order to become a midwife assistant, so long as the midwife who is doing the patient care and/or training is licensed and has been in a business for several years. In some areas, the midwife may also need training in coaching or teaching.
In order to get a job as a midwife assistant, it’s important to be familiar with the laws in the area. Those who wish to work with patients rather than in an solely secretarial role will need to find out what training is required in order to become an assistant, or a midwife if the goal is to apprentice. In some areas, opportunities may not be available, because midwifery is not legal in all areas.
Something else to think about with home birth midwifery and midwife assistant jobs that involve home birth is that, well, you're working in people's homes.
When I had my baby in a hospital, I was in the medical domain. The nurses worked there; I was on their turf. And the OB just sort of swooped in periodically. Now, that was fine with me. The nurses took care of pretty much everything, even bringing me graham crackers at two a.m. so I wouldn't be taking Percoset on an empty stomach.
But my best friend had her baby at home, and I was there for that. There, the midwife and her apprentice/assistant were on my friend's turf, and they were the ones adapting. They had to figure out where everything was (cold water? ice? crackers?). The advantage of that, of course, is that then the patient often feels so much more comfortable, but not everyone would be comfortable working in people's houses like that.
I want to have a home birth for my future third child and hope to use a Certified Professional Midwife. Because my first child was born via caesarean section, the nurse-midwives in my area are not permitted to attend me at home or at their birth center, but CPMs (which are legal in my area) do attend some VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) patients.
I think anyone getting into this field needs to really think about if it's a lifestyle they want. OBs can take the weekend off and have someone else cover, but that's a lot harder with a midwife's job. And while some CPMs and their assistants work in freestanding birth centers, most do home births. When something goes wrong in a home birth, you can't call in a colleague or extra nurse to help out -- it's all on you. So think about if you can handle the pressure.
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