Common College Courses for CNMs

NurseJournal Staff
Updated November 11, 2021
    Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) enjoy rewarding careers caring for expectant and new parents and infants. Find out how to become a CNM and what you'll learn along the way.
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    A nurse midwife measuring blood pressure of a pregnant patient during a routine examination at home

    This guide provides information on becoming a certified nurse midwife (CNM) and lists typical program pathways, common core coursework, and helpful prerequisites for CNM candidates.

    Current and prospective CNM students can explore a preview of what they will learn on their way to a career in nurse midwifery.

    Nurse Midwifery Curriculum at a Glance

    It can take between 6-8 years to become a certified nurse midwife, depending on your chosen pathway and if you possess relevant education or experience.

    A graduate degree in midwifery is about 60-70 credits. For example, at The Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a focus in nurse midwifery comprises 64 total credits: 21 core credits, 28 didactic management credits, and 15 clinical credits.

    Individuals looking to become CNMs who currently practice as advanced practice registered nurses can pursue postgraduate certificate programs, which is around 39 credits: 27 didactic credits and 12 clinical credits.

    Meet a Nurse Midwife

    “I love caring for someone as they are moving through their journey — maybe providing family planning or primary care, and then maybe pregnancy labor and birth care, basically sustaining a healthcare relationship over time.” – Michelle Palmer, CNM

    Prerequisites for Midwifery Programs

    Prospective CNMs can pursue several educational pathways to the profession. Typical prerequisites for most CNM programs include chemistry, human anatomy, physiology, biology, and microbiology.

    Sociology and women’s studies courses can also prepare enrollees for graduate-level midwifery programs, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

    MSN Core Curriculum

    An MSN curriculum covers advanced practice nursing topics, which CNM specialists take with specific midwifery courses. Students pursuing MSNs with a focus on midwifery will typically encounter the following classes:

    • Principles of Health Promotion: This course teaches learners to apply advanced practice principles of health promotion for individuals and populations, such as client-centered theory and care, evidence-based care, and ethical care.
    • Advanced Pathophysiology: As a combination of pathology and physiology, pathophysiology examines the causes and effects of diseases on bodily systems, including functional changes and health consequences.
    • Advanced Physical Assessment: This class teaches appropriate psychomotor skills and interview techniques for examining patients. Enrollees learn to apply the most up-to-date evidence to arrive at sound clinical judgments and diagnoses.
    • Epidemiology and Biostatistics: These topics provide tools for understanding the causes of diseases and identifying the best prevention and treatment approaches.
    • Evidence-based Practice: Students learn to use the latest research to improve patient health and safety, reduce healthcare costs, and minimize variation in patient outcomes.

    Nurse Midwifery Program Curriculum

    The courses listed in this section typically makeup part of the curriculum for practicing CNMs who already hold MSNs and plan to pursue board certification in nurse midwifery. These classes focus primarily on the CNM specialization and prepare graduates to pass their certification examinations.

    • The Role of the Nurse Midwife in Healthcare Delivery Systems: This course acquaints students with the requirements, responsibilities, roles, and settings for CNMs, including scope of practice and regulations.
    • Gynecologic Health: Enrollees develop clinical reasoning and management skills, along with foundational concepts in gynecologic healthcare across the lifespan. Topics include developmental transitions, sexual functioning, and reproduction.
    • Primary Care of Women: Course content covers common health issues for women and compares management options that help women make informed choices about their care.
    • Midwifery Care During Labor and Birth: Students evaluate and apply concepts in theoretical foundations, evidence, and shared decision-making to create labor and birth plans.
    • Midwifery Care of Postpartum Women and Newborns: This course examines the anatomy and physiology of the fetal-to-newborn transition. Prospective CNMs explore postpartum changes to design care plans for mothers and infants, emphasizing inclusion and equity.
    • Advanced Midwifery Care of Childbearing Women and Newborns: Learners examine advanced concepts in comprehensive nurse midwifery care, such as anticipation, identification, and management of complications during stages of pregnancy and birth.
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Concepts for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: In this course, students refine their skills in critical thinking and diagnostic reasoning through practice and demonstration of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor assessment.
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