Question: FAQ: Are there online dual certified nurse midwife/women’s health nurse practitioner (CNM/WHNP) programs for nursing students interested in both obstetrics and gynecology?

Answer: Yes, there are dual CNM/WHNP programs available for nurses who would like to work in both women’s health and certified nurse midwifery. These programs tend to require more academic courses, clinical practicum hours, and overall time to complete, relative to completing a program in either nurse midwifery or women’s health. However, for individuals who wish to achieve dual certification as a CNM and a WHNP, these programs can in fact save time by removing redundant courses that students would have to complete if they were to enroll in a CNM and a WHNP program separately.

Dual CNM/WHNP programs allow students who are interested in both women’s health and nurse midwifery to obtain certification and licensure to practice in both fields without having to complete two separate graduate or post-graduate nursing programs. These programs are generally comprised of a combination of coursework in primary care, women’s health, and labor and delivery, as well as practicum experiences in primary health care, obstetrical, and gynecological settings.

Defining the Roles of WHNPs and CNMs

CNMs and WHNPs both work to ensure the reproductive health of women across the lifespan, and to provide education, support, and medical care to mothers and their families. However, their roles are distinct. Women’s health nurse practitioners are trained to provide primary health care and reproductive health care to women across the lifespan, with a particular emphasis on well women care during women’s reproductive years. Their typical responsibilities include conducting well women exams, advising patients on birth control options and family planning, and providing support to women before, during, and after pregnancy. WHNPs are not trained to attend to mothers during labor and delivery. They focus on preventative care and patient education, and typically work in primary health care settings such as outpatient clinics, private practices, and community health centers. WHNPs are certified through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

Certified nurse midwives, like WHNPs, provide primary and gynecological health care services to women across the lifespan. However, in addition to well women care, CNMs also provide medical support to pregnant women throughout the duration of their pregnancy, including labor and delivery. CNMs are trained to provide regular health checkups and education to expecting mothers, and assist women with the birthing process in collaboration with a larger team of specialists. CNMs can work in a variety of women’s health and obstetrical settings, such as labor/delivery and ob/gyn departments of hospitals, freestanding birth centers, and private practices. CNMs are certified through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

Dual CNM/WHNP programs prepare students to take both the WHNP and the CNM national certification exams, and to obtain state licensure to practice both disciplines in their state of residence. As the responsibilities of WHNPs and CNMs overlap, CNM and WHNP programs typically have overlapping academic requirements and coursework. As a result, students who would like to practice as both a WHNP and a CNM may be able to save time and course credits by enrolling in a dual CNM/WHNP program that removes the need for them to take redundant courses in two separate programs.

Curriculum Details for Online Dual CNM/WHNP Programs

Online dual CNM/WHNP programs are typically offered at the master’s level, granting students a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in both women’s health and nurse midwifery. As mentioned previously, the curriculum for these dual programs merges the coursework of CNM programs and WHNP programs, while removing any redundant classes from the program. Students of dual CNM/WHNP programs generally complete a set of core courses in advanced practice primary care nursing concepts, followed by concentration coursework in women’s health and primary care, nurse midwifery principles and practices, and biological, social, and political circumstances that impact women’s health across the lifespan.

Core Courses for Dual CNM/WHNP Programs

The core curriculum for dual CNM/WHNP programs covers fundamental concepts in the clinical care of patients across the lifespan, as well as issues in health care policy and nursing research. These classes are meant to give students a strong foundation in advanced practice nursing methods, independent of their specialization or population focus.

  • Advanced Health Assessment: How to conduct an accurate physical assessment and take thorough medical histories. How to integrate biological, social, familial, and environmental data to achieve a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s current health status.
  • Advanced Human Physiology and Pathophysiology: How the human body develops and functions at the systems, organ, tissue, and cellular levels, and how different body systems work together to achieve equilibrium. The origin and development of common health conditions that afflict humans across the lifespan.
  • Advanced Pharmacology: The different drug classes and their effects on the body. The principles of pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, dose-response relationships, and drug metabolism, and how they apply to different patient scenarios.
  • Research Methods for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: The quantitative and qualitative research methods used in health care research, and how to apply them to the design, implementation, and analysis of a clinical research project.
  • Health Care Policy and Ethics: The organization, financing, and delivery of health care services in the United States, and important policy issues concerning patients and health care providers. The current state of health care reform, and the role of the advanced practice registered nurse in the evolution of health care in America. Health care ethics and their application to different patient-provider relationships and situations.

Concentration Courses in CNM/WHNP Programs

Concentration courses for dual CNM/WHNP programs focus on the reproductive care of women, the support of pregnant women throughout the duration of her pregnancy and afterwards, and the care of newborns immediately following delivery.

  • Essential Concepts in Women’s Health: The anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of women’s reproductive organs. Variations within and deviations from the healthy/normal for both pregnant and non-pregnant women, and how the female body changes throughout the lifespan.
  • Primary Care of Women: How to support women’s health from menarche through old age through regular checkups, well women exams (including screenings for STIs, cervical cancer, and other reproductive health issues), immunizations, patient education, and other primary and preventative health care measures.
  • Full Scope Midwifery Care: The clinical care of pregnant women throughout the gestation period, during labor and birth, and in the post-partum period. The care of newborn babies in the period immediately following birth, and the support of the mother’s family during the labor process.
  • Clinical Care for High-Risk Pregnancies and Birth: Conditions throughout the tenure of a pregnancy (ex. developmental disorders, gestational diabetes, complications during labor and delivery) that can negatively impact the health of the mother, the fetus, or both. How to collaborate with a multidisciplinary team to manage each of these medical situations to support the safety of both mother and child.
  • Issues in Women’s Health: The biological, social, economic, and political forces that impact women’s health and their access to care. Advancements in the areas of women’s rights and community health, and how medical practitioners can support women’s health through a combination of direct health care services and patient advocacy.

Clinical Practicum Requirements for Online Dual CNM/WHNP Programs

In general, clinical practicum requirements for dual CNM/WHNP programs are greater than those for either WHNP or CNM programs, due to the fact that students must fulfill clinical hours requirements for both NCC and AMCB certification. Typically, dual CNM/WHNP programs require students to complete a minimum of 1000 clinical hours with practicums in both women’s health settings and nurse midwifery settings. Students complete their practicum hours over the course of several rotations spread throughout the program, with rotations devoted specifically to women’s primary care, women’s reproductive care, and labor and delivery.

Online Course Delivery and On-Campus Intensives for Dual CNM/WHNP Programs

Online dual CNM/WHNP programs are generally comprised of a combination of asynchronous and synchronous course components. Asynchronous elements may include pre-recorded lectures, guided modules, and homework and readings that students can complete on their own time. Synchronous components include live lectures that students must attend via video chat, or online discussion boards that students are expected to contribute to. In addition, to enhance student engagement with course content, some online dual CNM/WHNP programs require students to attend on-campus intensives, which are single or multi-day events during which students may engage in clinical simulation experiences, complete exams or attend lectures in person, and have the opportunity to network with program faculty and peers.