Alaska’s nurse midwives take pride and find great inspiration in the fact that the field of nurse-midwifery has been largely influenced and shaped by an Alaskan who would become known the world over as the “Mother of Midwifery.” Founder of the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center, Kay Kanne worked as a midwife for 30 years and was present at over 1,000 births before her retirement in 2014. Throughout her career she helped shape state legislation relating to midwifery and also influenced policy at the national level through her dedicated work on behalf of nurse-midwife professional organizations.
Applying their expertise to serve as primary healthcare providers for women and their children over the lifespan, certified nurse midwives do much more than attend childbirth. Being licensed as an advanced practice RN and providing comprehensive care before, during and after childbirth has helped to establish Alaska’s certified nurse-midwives (CNM) as some of the most well-compensated healthcare professionals in the state. In 2014, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported that CNMs in the state earned an average salary of $101,350.
A growing demand for the personalized care that CNMs provide is a major contributing factor in the strong job growth rate the field is experiencing, as the number of jobs for CNMs in the state is expected to increase by 28 percent over the ten-year period leading up to 2022. This is despite the fact that Alaska is already home to the highest concentration of jobs for certified nurse-midwives in the nation, with one out of every 714 jobs in the state being in the field of nurse-midwifery (Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, 2014).
Steps to Becoming a Nurse-Midwife in Alaska
The Alaska Board of Nursing is responsible for regulating certified nurse-midwives in the state, who must meet the requirements for Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) licensure before practicing the art and science of midwifery.
Becoming a nurse-midwife in Alaska starts by following the steps detailed in this guide:
Step 1. Earn a Qualifying Master’s Degree or Higher in Nurse Midwifery
In accordance with Alaska Nursing Statutes and Regulations, RNs interested in advanced practice licensure in nurse-midwifery must complete a nurse-midwife graduate program that is at least one year in duration and that includes at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice. Acceptable master’s and doctoral programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
ACME-accredited online programs provide the ideal opportunity for working RNs to complete graduate studies without disruptions to their work life, and as such, have become standard nationwide. These programs are particularly beneficial to grad students in Alaska who would otherwise need to relocate to complete a fulltime out-of-state campus-based program in nurse-midwifery.
To appeal to a broader array of RNs while offering additional specializations, some nurse-midwifery programs are structured as dual focus graduate degrees to incorporate specialization in a related field like women’s health. A dual Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (NM/WHNP) master’s degree will prepare graduates for Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) licensure with both designations:
- Nurse Midwifery
- Nurse Practitioner in Women’s Health
Admissions requirements for selected graduate programs can vary according to the school, but often include:
- Current nurse license
- Minimum GPA
- Personal statement or video essay
- Letters of recommendation
- A BSN or a related education that includes the completion of nursing prerequisites
Although it is most common for these graduate programs to accept BSN-prepared RNs, ACME also accredits RN-MSN programs designed for ADN-prepared RNs interested in earning both a BSN and relevant master’s degree in one combined dual-degree program.
Content of an Approved Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Graduate Program
The minimum one-year of classes will cover important topics in the field of midwifery and women’s health such as:
- Advanced topics in women’s reproductive health
- Integrated midwifery care of women
- Research methods for advanced-practice nurses
- Biostatistics and data analysis
- Pharmacology topics for women who may become pregnant
- Health care ethics
- Legal issues for women’s health care
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Labor, birth, and newborn care
- Women’s health during pregnancy
Online graduate programs will assign a faculty advisor to work closely with students from the beginning to identify and establish sites where students can complete their clinical training. Examples of locations in Alaska that partner with accredited online master’s degree programs in nurse-midwifery to provide clinical training include:
- Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage
- Fairbanks Memorial Hospital
- Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage
- Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage
After completing a master’s or higher degree in nurse-midwifery, candidates would then be eligible to take the appropriate national certifying examinations.
Step 2. Pass the Exams for National Certification
To be eligible for nurse-midwife and/or nurse practitioner in women’s health certification, the Alaska Board of Nursing requires the appropriate national certification, each of which is obtainable upon passing the appropriate examination:
- CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) – sponsored by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
- WHNP-BC (Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner) Certification – sponsored by the National Certification Corporation
Holding an approved dual-focus master’s degree in Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (NM/WHNP) will qualify candidates to sit for either one or both these exams.
Even though separate certifying bodies sponsor these exams, they are administered at the same testing center. Applied Measurement Professional (APM) proctors this test at the following location in Alaska:
H & R Block Office
3120 Denali Street
Suite 6 & 7
Anchorage, AK 99503
Upon receiving notification of successful applications to test through the AMCB and/or NCC, candidates can sign up for a testing date on AMP’s website.
Certified Nurse Midwife Exam
Candidates can apply for the National Certification Examination in Nurse-Midwifery by sending an application to:
849 International Drive, Suite 120
Linthicum, MD 21090
To prepare for this exam candidates can review the Candidate Handbook. The test is administered on a computer and comprised of 175 multiple-choice questions. With a time limit of four hours, the test covers the following midwifery topics:
- Antepartum – 19-26 percent
- Intrapartum – 17-26 percent
- Postpartum – 15-18 percent
- Gynecology – 15-18 percent
- Women’s health and primary care – 8-16 percent
- Newborn – 7-16 percent
Successful candidates will earn a Certificate in Nurse Midwifery (CNM) from the AMCB.
Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Exam
Candidates have three hours to complete this exam, which is comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions. The test may also contain up to 25 additional unscored pre-test questions. The subject matter evaluated on the test is as follows:
- Gynecology – 35-40 percent
- Obstetrics – 25-30 percent
- Primary Care – 10-15 percent
- Diagnostic testing and physical assessment – 10-15 percent
- Pharmacology – 5-10 percent
Upon passing this exam nurses will earn the WHNP-BC credential.
Step 3. Apply to Become a Certified Nurse Midwife/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Once candidates have completed their master’s education and earned the appropriate national certifications they will be qualified to apply for ANP status with the Alaska Board of Nursing. Applicants may apply for the following designations on a single application:
- Certified Nurse-Midwife ANP status
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner ANP status
- Temporary permit
Once the application is complete it can be submitted to:
Board of Nursing
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1500
Anchorage, AK 99501
Four to six weeks after submitting an application, candidates will be informed of the board’s decision with regard to gaining Advanced Nurse Practitioner status.
Temporary Permit for ANP Status
Alaska’s RNs can apply for a temporary non-renewable advanced practice permit if they meet any of the following conditions:
- The nurse holds ANP status in another state or province
- The nurse is scheduled to take the next national certifying exam in their area of advanced practice
- The nurse is awaiting the results of a recent national certifying exam
In the event that nurses do not pass the national exam they must cease practicing immediately.
Step 4. Begin a Career in Nurse-Midwifery While Maintaining Licensure and Certification
Once the Alaska Board of Nursing has awarded the status of ANP with the Certified Nurse Midwife and/or Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner designation, licensees can begin practicing in their new careers.
While seeing patients and expanding their professional reach, nurses must also remember their continuing education and renewal requirements. These are maintained with the national certifying agencies as well as with the Alaska Board of Nursing.
Renewal of ANP Status with the Alaska Board of Nursing
To keep the ANP status of Certified Nurse Midwife and/or Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner through the Alaska Board of Nursing, certificate holders must first make sure to keep their regular Alaska RN license current. Next they must be sure to keep their national certifications current through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) and/or the National Certification Corporation.
If these are all up-to-date, then nurses can renew their ANP status. ANP renewal forms are mailed out 90 days before this status is set to expire, which happens biannually on November 30th of even-numbered years.
Renewal of Certificate in Nurse Midwifery (CNM) with the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
To renew this credential, nurse midwives will need to familiarize themselves with the AMCB’s Certificate Maintenance Program. This is a five-year renewal cycle that involves completing either one of the following:
- Three certificate maintenance modules and 20 hours of continuing education
Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC) with the National Certification Corporation
This credential is on a three-year maintenance renewal cycle. During this cycle WHNPs will take a Continuing Competency Assessment, the results of which will determine how many continuing education credits are needed for renewal. The credit requirement can range between 10-50 hours per three-year cycle depending on the results of the competency assessment.
Important Nurse-Midwife and Women’s Health NP Employers
Many new nurse midwives and women’s health NPs will be excited to expand their professional opportunities with their current employer or at the location where they received their graduate-level clinical education. Still other professionals in these fields will be eager to start their own practices or form new collaborative partnerships.
Potential employers in Alaska range from large hospitals to independent women’s clinics:
- Alaska Native Medical Center, Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Alaska Regional Hospital, Family Birth Center
- Anchorage Women’s Clinic
- Alaska Women’s Health PC in Anchorage
- Denali Ob-Gyn Clinic
- Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Maternity Services
- Interior Women’s Clinic in Fairbanks
- Providence Alaska Medical Center, Maternity Center
- Sitka Medical Center
- Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Juneau
Those who have earned their ANP status as nurse midwives and/or women’s health NPs can pursue jobs throughout Alaska such as these. (Sourced from a statewide job survey conducted in November 2015 and shown as illustrative examples only):
- Senior Certified Nurse Midwife with the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage
- Certified Nurse Midwife with the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage
- Certified Nurse Midwife at the Elmendorf Air Force Base Regional Hospital in Anchorage
- Registered Nurse OB/GYN at Aya Healthcare in Dillingham
- RN Labor and Delivery Travel Nurse with American Traveler in Barrow
- Women’s Health Case Management Support II with Maniilaq Association in Kotzebue
Salaries for Certified Nurse-Midwives in Alaska
More than ever, nurse midwives are discovering an abundance of great paying jobs in Alaska. In May 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported that Alaska held the highest concentration of nurse midwife jobs of any state in the nation. At that time, nurse midwives practicing in the state earned an average annual salary of $101,350, which is higher than the national average of $97,700 for this occupation.
Employment Trends for Nurse Midwives in Alaska
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the practice of nurse-midwifery during, before, and after childbirth is growing in popularity throughout the state, which is helping to create greater job opportunities here. In general, employment prospects are especially prevalent in medically undeserved locales in Alaska, most notably in inner city and more rural regions.
The United States Department of Labor predicts that the number of nurse midwives working in Alaska will increase by 28% from 2012 through 2022, which is roughly 10% faster than the overall employment growth rate in the state during this projection period. In 2015, the majority of nurse midwives in Alaska worked in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers.
In December 2015, the following local employers that posted online job advertisements for nurse midwives in Alaska through job aggregation sites such as indeed.com included the U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade, the Southcentral Foundation, and the Professional Performance Development Group, Inc.
How Experience and Location Impacts CNM Salaries in Alaska
One of the most influential factors affecting a nurse midwife’s salary in Alaska is work experience. In 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported that nurse midwives just entering the field in Alaska received an average annual salary of $79,700, while moderately experienced nurse midwives were paid closer to $97,700 annually. The most accomplished, and highly experienced nurse midwives earned an average annual salary of $135,000 that year.
Nurse midwife salaries tend to shift depending upon their demand and availability throughout cities and regions in Alaska. For example, in December 2015, nurse midwives employed in Anchorage earned an average annual salary of $77,000. However, those working in Fairbanks received an average annual salary of $88,000, while those practicing in Juneau earned an even higher average annual salary of $95,000.
These city-specific salary statistics were collected from the salary aggregation site indeed.com, which obtains its salary data by providing an average among all job postings over the previous twelve months.