There are several ways to become a midwife in the United States. Choosing the path that best fits your personal philosophy and professional goals will require you to decide what you want to do as a midwife and which avenue of preparation will best get you where you want to go.
What is your philosophy about health care and childbirth?
What are your own personal experiences in health care and childbirth? Do you personally prefer the medical model of health care or holistic, “alternative” or “traditional” modalities? Do you want to learn how to open your own practice? Do you want your education to include holistic approaches such as herbs, homeopathy, chiropractic and oriental medicine in addition to drugs and medical treatments? Do you want your clinical training to be hospital based or do you want to learn how midwifery is practiced in birth centers and homebirths?
Where do you want to practice?
How do you envision your midwifery practice? Do you want to work in a hospital, or deliver babies outside of the hospital, in a birth center or in clients’ homes? Do you want to be an employee? Do you want to set up your own independent practice? Are you willing to be on call or do you want a “9-to-5” job? Do you want to serve a particular population? The more specific you are about your midwifery goals, the better you will be able to choose the training method and community that fits your needs.
In what state do you want to become licensed?
Start by finding out the requirements to become a midwife where you want to practice midwifery. Does the state license direct-entry midwives, and if so do they have to be CPMs or CMs? What are the educational requirements? What will you be able to do when you get licensed: work in a clinic, deliver babies in a hospital, open your own homebirth practice, start a birth center? The MANA website tracks the laws and regulations in each state for direct-entry midwives. Citizens for Midwifery maintains a State-by-State Guide to midwifery in the US.
What kind of a learner are you?
Do you learn best in structured situations or do you do better with self-teaching? Do you like going to classes with face-to-face interaction or do you prefer online learning? Are you organized and disciplined enough to set your own schedule? Are there any constraints on your ability to go to school such as financial, family, career, location? Can you attend full time or part time? Choosing a program that fits your learning style and accommodates your situation will maximize your ability to succeed.
HOW TO CHOOSE A MIDWIFERY SCHOOL:
There are a variety of midwifery schools and programs. Some are accredited by one of the two national midwifery accrediting agencies: the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. Some are not accredited. Some are state licensed. Some are run by a state or community midwifery group. The program may be classroom-based, correspondence, online or “hybrid” which refers to a combination of online and onsite education. Most midwifery programs are 2 to 3 years long. Some will have hospital-based clinical training, some will place students with midwives in birth centers and homebirth practices, some will include a center as part of the school, and some correspondence courses do not include a clinical component.
An excellent resource for anyone thinking about what kind of midwife you want to be and what training options are best for you is a book Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education which is published by Midwifery Today. Visit the website and learn more about this book.
Some questions you might want to ask when considering a midwifery school or program:
- What education and training are required in the state in which you want to become licensed? Does the school/program you’re considering meet these requirements?
- Does the program teach you what you want to learn about midwifery?
- How well does it fit with your personal philosophy and orientation to health care? Is its orientation primarily medical? Does it include holistic “alternative” modalities?
- Who are the teachers, what kind of credentialing and experience do they have?
- What clinical placements does the school provide?
- Does graduation fully prepare you to become nationally certified?
- Is the school/program licensed by the state Department of Education? Is it approved by the agency that licenses midwives in your state?
- Is the school/program accredited by a national or regional accrediting agency? Does it offer financial aid?
- How transferrable is the education to meet the licensing requirements in any other state, province or country in which you might want to practice in the future?
- Is the program in a freestanding private proprietary school or in a larger institution: a private or public college or university?
- Who owns the school? How long has it been in existence? What kind of a reputation does it have, what do graduates, practicing midwives, and those who didn’t complete the program have to say about it?
- What are the prerequisites for admission? How large are the classes? How many apply and how many are accepted?
- What is their graduation rate? Their pass rate on the national certification exam? Where do their graduates work?
- What is the cost for tuition, books, equipment, supplies and other requirements?
- Will I need a computer and internet access?
- Does the class schedule fit in with my personal, family and job demands? Will I be able to work and go to school? If not how will I support myself?
- If I want to go on to another health care field, will the credits or course content be accepted by other schools?
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