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What does a Midwife do?

Childbirth is, at its core, both simple and complicated. Women’s bodies are designed to bear children, and yet, so many things can go wrong when it comes time to deliver a baby. An experienced, professional midwife can make the labor and birthing process safer and more comfortable for everyone involved.


A vital health care professional

Forget any preconceived notions you might have of a sarong-clad treehugger humming New Agey music while concocting natural herbal remedies; a midwife is a licensed health care professional who provides mothers (and mothers-to-be) with education, counseling, and support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

An education in gynecologic and reproductive health is a crucial foundation of this profession. Expectant mothers might choose to have their babies delivered by midwives for one of several reasons:

  • Midwives are often proponents of “natural” childbirth
  • The mother has chosen to deliver the baby at home
  • Midwives may be more affordable natal care options than other types of specialists

Because of the nature of the work, you must have excellent communication skills, a good bedside manner and unending patience in order to succeed as a midwife.

The many faces of midwifery

There are several different types of midwife, each requiring specific qualifications. Your licensing may depend upon the state you live in, and the state(s) you wish to practice in.

  • A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) is both a trained and licensed nurse and midwife, and is classified as an “advanced practice nurse.” They are registered nurses who most often hold at least a master’s degree and are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
  • A Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is a trained midwife who is certified by the North American Registry of Midwives.
  • A Direct-Entry Midwife (DEM) trained independently through an academic program or an apprenticeship.
  • A Certified Midwife (CM) is trained in midwifery, generally holds at least a bachelor’s degree, and is certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.
  • Finally, a Law Midwife is someone who trained through apprenticeship, and does not hold any certifications.

Depending on the level of education you would like to pursue, this career offers multiple options and advancements. Your educational level is also likely to determine your salary potential.

A career is born

The amount of money you earn as a midwife will vary, depending upon where you live, where you work, and what level of education and certification you have. Midwives work in a variety of professional settings, from hospitals to health clinics to private practices. Midwifery can be a fairly autonomous career, so many midwifes operate their own practices. The American College of Nurse-Midwives reports that most midwives work in hospitals as part of a health care team that may include physicians, nutritionists, social workers, and other health care professionals.

What does a Neonatal Nurse do?

There are over four million births in the United States each year, a figure that has increased by nearly 30 percent over the past 30 years. Even as the number of births increased sharply over this time period, the US infant mortality rate declined significantly. These facts underscore the important role played by a neonatal nurse.

Neonatal nursing can be a financially and emotionally rewarding career, but it requires both intensive training and some special personal characteristics.

neonatal nurse

Job requirements for neonatal nurses

A neonatal nurse cares for newborns in the first days of their lives. Because newborns are so delicate, nurses need specific neonatal training in various aspects of nursing, from administering medications to resuscitation. In many cases, nurses have to work long and tiring shifts, and because of the importance of their work they have to fight against allowing fatigue to diminish patient care.

Nurses need a strong enough aptitude for science to understand a range of medical subjects, from anatomy to medication. They need to couple this intellectual ability with emotional stability and empathy for their patients.

Neonatal nurses are required to be registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They must be certified in either neonatal resuscitation or neonatal intensive care nursing, or both. In addition, they may pursue more advanced training depending on the level of neonatal nursing they provide. There are different levels of neonatal nursing for healthy babies, premature or sick babies, and those babies requiring intensive care.

Career opportunities for neonatal nurses

The number of jobs for registered nurses, in general, is expected to grow much more quickly than the employment market as a whole, and with the birth rate steadily increasing, neonatal nurses should continue to see rising demand.

As you might expect, most nurses work for hospitals, and hospitals tend to pay above-average wages. Location can also be a big factor in the income you earn, with California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, and New Jersey being the highest-paying states for registered nurses.

Being a neonatal nurse has several things going for it as a career – above average expected job growth, geographic flexibility, and good wages. On top of that, it is literally a chance to make a life-or-death difference to some of the most fragile members of society.

What does a Nurse do?

A nurse helps people take care of their health. Virginia Henderson, a famous nurse researcher, once said that “the unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.”

While doctors focus on curing disease, nurses deal with patients’ responses to disease and illness. A doctor, for instance, will order tests and medicine to treat a patient with asthma. A nurse will make sure the patient understands how to take the medication and how to pace his daily activities to avoid asthma flare-ups.

Where nurses work

Nurses work in hospitals, nursing homes, medical clinics, schools, government agencies, factories, prisons, churches and out in the community. While most nurses work for a healthcare agency or institution, some nurses are independent consultants or entrepreneurs.


Nurses can choose to specialize by disease or area of interest. Common nursing specialties include maternal-child nursing (the care of pregnant/birthing women and their babies), oncology nursing (the care of cancer patients) and geriatrics (the care of the elderly).

Becoming a nurse

There are many paths to a nursing career. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) typically attend one year of college, either at a vocational/technical school or community college. After graduation, they must pass the National Council Licensure Exam, NCLEX-PN, which is administered by state boards of nursing.

Registered nurses (RNs) typically attend two to four years of college. Associate degree programs in nursing (ADN) are offered by vo-tech schools or community colleges and feature lots of hands-on clinical and classroom work. An ADN program is a two-year program.

Bachelor degree programs, which lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), are four-year programs offered by colleges and universities. BSN programs include a foundation in the liberal arts and courses in management, conflict resolution, nursing theory and research. Both ADN and BSN grads must pass a licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN, to obtain their nursing license and begin work as a nurse.

Nurses in demand

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for nurses is expected to grow by about 20 percent. Because healthcare is shifting out of hospitals and into the community, most new nursing positions will be in physicians’ offices, home care and nursing care facilities.

Nursing offers infinite opportunities for advancement. Nurses with an entry-level degree can work as staff nurses, nurse managers and patient educators. Advanced degrees open the door to additional opportunities, including nurse educator, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthesiologist and certified nurse midwife.