History of the ANCM and AMCB

Having the Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) credential from the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) distinguishes advanced practice nurses with advanced medical training from other professionals who attend childbirth, such as doulas, birth companions, or birth supporters.

The importance of this distinction cannot be overstated, and is the result of the efforts of countless individuals with real-life experience who made the founding of the AMCB and American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) possible.

The founding of these organizations stretches back to 1929. However the national concept of nurse-midwifery was only being formulated by 1954.

The ACNM can trace its roots back to 1929, the era of one state-level organization known as the Kentucky State Association of Midwives. At this time it would be a mistake to think that nurse-midwifery was a well-defined or even recognized class of professional, especially at the national level.

At this point one of the most predominant national nursing organizations – the National Organization of Public Health Nurses (NOPHN) – lumped those we would today call nurse-midwives with nurses specializing in other child-related practices. This nursing division was known as Maternal and Child Health, and was so broad that it included the modern branches of:

  • Physically disabled children
  • Obstetrics
  • School nursing
  • Pediatrics
  • Orthopedics
  • Nurse-midwifery

In other words, nurse-midwives had to have an understanding of the details regarding all of these branches, which made a specific focus on midwifery difficult. Despite this, by 1949 the NOPHN released its first national publication with data specifically about nurse midwifery.

A few years later the NOPHN merged together with an even larger national organization, the American Nurses Association (ANA).

As the largest national nursing association at the time, the ANA’s 1954 convention provided the venue where a critical mass of people got together to realize it was time to form a national organization of nurses who were focused specifically on midwifery. Important among these was a key figure associated with the Kentucky State Association of Midwives, Mary Breckinridge.

After considering options to form a subgroup within an existing organization such as the ANA, or to start their own national organization, by 1955 this group of nurses unanimously chose independent incorporation as the American College of Nurse-Midwifery (ACNM). This event marked the beginning of nurse midwifery on a national scale.

Over the next decades the ACNM established itself as the authoritative national organization in the field. In 1971 when the nurse-midwives began to be certified by examination, the ACNM was the sponsor of the first certifying exam.

By 1991 modern ethical standards dictated that professional organizations such as the ACNM should function separately and independently from national certification agencies. At this point a new certification organization split away from the ACNM. This was the predecessor of the AMCB, and was then known as the ACNM Certification Council, abbreviated with the acronym ACC. The ACNM remained as the authority in nurse-midwifery education and professional standards.

Finally in 2005 the ACNM Certification Council (ACC) officially changed its name to the present-day American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), responsible for certifying all of today’s CNMs. Between 1971 and 2014 there have been 14,170 nurse-midwives who received the CNM credential.


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