Career Pathways & Education

What Does a Certified Nurse Midwife Do?

Traci L. Scott, MSN, DNP, CNM, NP-OB/GYN
July 29, 2020
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What are the responsibilities of a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)?

As a CNM, the midwife provides multiple points of patient care. 

These include:

  • Delivering newborns
  • Performing circumcisions
  • Providing annual gynecology exams 
  • Family planning
  • Peri and post menopause care
  • Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (intrauterine devices and nexplanons) placements 

Some CNMs may also work with pregnant teens. CNMs that work in a hospital and have the privilege of delivering babies are typically also responsible for seeing patients in a medical practice or clinic setting where they conduct antenatal care. 

This includes:

  • Physical exams
  • Pelvic exams
  • Genetic screenings
  • Sonograms
  • Laboratory tests
  • Fetal heart rate screenings and measurements
  • Nutrition and general healthcare education

Patients that are seen by CNMs are delivered by CNMs. This means that CNM’s help new mothers with managing labor. 

If necessary, additional support includes:

  • Inducing labor
  • Delivering babies
  • Providing education on postpartum care
  • Teaching breastfeeding techniques
  • Helping them explore postpartum birth control options

What should nurses entering this specialty expect to encounter on a regular basis? 

As a CNM, we are expected to care for and treat women of all ages from adolescence to menopause. 

We see patients in medical offices for:

  • Annual exams
  • Birth control
  • UTIs
  • STIs
  • Vaccinations
  • Menopause
  • Antenatal and postpartum care

In the hospital setting, we triage patients for:

  • Preterm labor
  • Preeclampsia
  • High blood pressure
  • Active labor 
  • Perform biophysics profiles (BPPs)

As a CNM with patients in active labor, you would support them by managing their labors, delivering their babies, providing care through the postpartum phase, and assessing them outpatient for postpartum depression. 

CNMs order labs and diagnostic testing, provide cancer screening, review and explain lab results, and refer patients to other specialists as well as prescribe medications as needed. 

Essentially, CNMs are women’s health care professionals that can also deliver babies. 

two nurses delivering a baby certified nurse midwife cnm

What's your experience as a Certified Nurse Midwife?

When I self-reflect, it’s clear I was meant to be a CNM. I was always the nurturer who would run after someone with a band-aid, help a classmate with their homework, and tell my mother how to do something differently because her way did not make sense. 

I was also the empathic one who would cry during a sitcom if a character was hurting in any way. All of those traits that I displayed as a child are the same ones I embrace every single day in my career as a CNM. 

Over the last 16 years in women’s healthcare, I have honed every innate skill to educate, inspire, nurture, and care for women of all ages. I encourage my patients to be an advocate for themselves, speak their own truths, and become a boss of their health through prevention, observation, and treatment if needed. I am a midwife, which means “with woman” in technical terms. I am truly with women through adolescence, childbirth, and menopause, and I am both honored and humbled to be there.

What are some of the benefits of working as a Certified Nurse Midwife?

There are many rewarding aspects of working as a CNM. These include autonomy, working with diverse populations, bringing human life into the world, and teaching women about health and wellness. For me personally, the most rewarding benefit of being a CNMs is my rapport and relationships with my patients. I come into my patients’ lives when they need me the most, and we eventually build a bond that I treasure long after their last appointment.

nurse puts bandaid on patient after drawing blood certified nurse midwife cnm

What are some of the not-so-great parts of working as a Certified
Nurse Midwife?

Being a CNM certainly has its challenging moments. Work schedules can be one of those difficulties. I currently work four days a week (one form of nursing shift), but that includes weekends, nights, and holidays. Another challenging and unfortunate aspect of a career as a CNM is having to guide women through pregnancy loss. 

As one can imagine, speaking to patients about pregnancy loss, is a hard conversation to have. However, these difficult conversations have helped me grow as both a person and a compassionate healthcare provider.

Share your favorite piece of advice for nursing new grads or students looking to become a Certified Nurse Midwife

My piece of advice for people considering becoming a nurse or a CNM is to pace yourself. Nursing is a slow run, not a sprint! After passing your boards and starting your first job, put your unique skill set into practice and learn to trust your instincts. This will ultimately help build your confidence. 

If you are considering becoming an advanced nurse practitioner, practice as a RN for at least one year to achieve a baseline level of knowledge. Nursing is difficult and demanding, but also rewarding and worth the hard work. Lastly, be sure to enjoy your days off and decompress!

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