A variety of certifications are available for the student midwife; the majority requires an apprenticeship under the guidance of a qualified midwife, called a preceptor. During the apprenticeship, the student observes and practices all aspects of midwifery relating to pregnancy and childbirth with the mother and the preceptor. These experiences include prenatal exams, births, and postpartum visits. Locating a qualified midwifery apprenticeship is not a difficult task, but is one that requires diligence.
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Different midwife certifications exist throughout the country resulting in a variety of apprenticeship requirements. Do your research to understand which type of certification best suits your goals. One certifying organisation is the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), which focuses on out-of-hospital births; the credentials offered are Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and are internationally recognised. NARM requires that all student midwives complete a one-year clinical component equal to a minimum of 20 births and 1,350 hours under the supervision of at least one certified midwife.
Familiarise yourself with and join one of the national organisations that support midwives. Membership in these organisations can connect you with practicing midwives across the country. The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has an extensive website with a wealth of information for those new to the field, including helpful links to update you on current laws and connect you with potential midwife preceptors. A student committee is available for those in the process of becoming midwives; this group meets at the annual conference and corresponds online.
Organizations and coalitions exist to raise awareness of specific state and regional midwifery practices. Florida Friends of Midwives was founded in 1989 to change midwifery laws in the state. Today this group remains active offering opportunities for families to learn about midwives and for midwives to enhance their education and to network. Organizations such as this can be found throughout the country and are invaluable resources for students searching for midwife apprenticeships.
Search your local Yellow Pages for birth centres, public health clinics or hospitals in your area. Make a list and call or visit a few; these facilities often have midwives on staff or can make recommendations of midwives with whom they have worked.
Verify that the midwife preceptor you choose has the appropriate qualifications. For your apprenticeship to be valid, your preceptor must meet the requirements of your certifying organisation. For NARM certification, a midwife must be one of the following; nationally certified (credentials for this are CPM, CNM, or CM); have practised as a primary attendant for at least three years; or be a practitioner specialising in maternity care.
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