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Careers in Healthcare

Midwives Help During the Most Important, Vulnerable, and Strongest Times in Women’s Lives

Tonya Nicholson, DNP, CNM.

Going to work each day is anything but routine for Tonya Nicholson, DNP, CNM.

“I get to participate in some of the most important, vulnerable, and, yet, strongest times in a woman’s life,” the longtime nurse midwife explained. “The emotional connection is huge and being able to bear witness to people becoming parents is the best ever. One of the most transformational experiences in a woman’s life is becoming a mother.”

Understanding the responsibilities

A nurse midwife is an advanced practice nurse that specializes in primary healthcare services for women from adolescence to menopause and beyond. The entry level to practice requires a master’s degree and many nurse midwives are doctorally prepared.

“Nurse midwives are educated and trained to care for women across the lifespan,” Dr. Nicholson said. “We do basic primary care for women, as well as gynecologic care, pregnancy care, labor care, birth, and newborn care.

“There’s an old quote that a midwife should have a lady’s hand, a hawk’s eye, and a lion’s heart. It is part of our work to bring gentleness, watchfulness, and courage to the women we serve.”

Dealing with the highs and lows

Nicholson says that while childbirth is typically a happy time, that’s not always the case.

“There’s not a lot of room for error when it comes to birth,” she said. “Everybody expects the experience and the outcome to be perfect. There are those rare genetic errors, there are occasional systems failures and there are errors in judgment.

“Labor and birth are awesome and wonderful so much of the time that when there is a bad outcome, it’s horrible for everyone involved. Along with the joy of birth, there is the potential for grief. We share in the grief of the family when there is a loss. Our hearts break alongside theirs.”

Advice for nursing students

For students considering a career as a midwife, Nicholson says, “Get any exposure to birthing, postpartum, and breastfeeding women that you can. Experience as a birth assistant, a doula, or a support person can give you a good basis of what birth should be like, and what it shouldn’t be.”

A passion for midwifery is also essential because it’s not for the faint of heart.

“Even on the busiest, craziest weekend, with one baby coming after another, when I get to the (next) birth, I’m so excited and energized,” she said. “Not for one second have I regretted choosing something that is so beautifully hard and so beautifully wonderful.”

Cindy Riley, [email protected]

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