Frequently Asked Questions


What is the role of the Certified Nurse-Midwife?

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) provide primary care services including reproductive health care, for women/individuals from adolescence onward and well newborns up to 28 days of life. Nurse-midwives provide care in a wide range of outpatient and inpatient settings including clinics, hospitals, birth centers, and homes.  More information about midwifery scope of practice can be found on the American College of Nurse-Midwives website and in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.

Certified nurse-midwives provide personalized care to women/individuals from diverse backgrounds that merges the woman’s medical needs and personal preferences. While CNMs independently provide care to low-risk women, we work collaboratively with other perinatal care providers to ensure all women receive appropriate medical care. Collaboration with an interprofessional team is a hallmark of our profession.

While work in the clinic usually fits within business hours, the care we provide to laboring, birthing, and postpartum women and their newborns occurs at all hours of the day and night, including holidays. Provision of high-quality, personalized health care to women/individuals cannot wait. Certified nurse-midwives are ready to answer that call.

Prior experience


Do I have to be a nurse to enter this specialty?

No. If you have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a field other than nursing, you can complete a one year full-time baccalaureate equivalent program (PreSpecialty Year - Clinical Experiences), progress to and then progress to the Nurse-Midwifery specialty.


Do I need RN work experience?

No. You can enter the specialty without RN work experience. While previous labor and delivery experience is a plus, we take applicants with a wide range of prior life and work experiences. 



Will applicant interviews be scheduled?

The nurse-midwifery program does not conduct interviews as part of the application process. We will use your submitted application packet in our holistic review process to make admissions decisions, no further information will be needed from you.


How many students are accepted into this specialty each year?

The number of students offered admission can vary each year based on many factors. Typically, we admit about 15-25 students into this specialty each year. We strongly recommended that you complete your application by the October 15th early action date to have a greater probability of being admitted. We encourage you to apply to the specialty that meets your career interest rather than focus on the number of spaces available.


Does the school accept transfer credit?

Matriculated students can transfer up to six semester credits of equivalent graduate level coursework from another accredited university to be applied toward the MSN. You must complete this petition  and return, along with the course syllabus, to Sara Donahoe. Courses completed elsewhere must have been taken within the last five years. The decision is based on equivalent content (for required courses), credit allotment, and satisfactory completion of the courses. 


I graduated from a midwifery program accredited by MEAC – Midwifery Education Accreditation Council. Am I eligible to apply to the Nurse-Midwifery program?

If you have a bachelor of science in midwifery, you are eligible to apply as a prespecialty (bachelor’s degree in field other than nursing) applicant.  In addition to completing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to have taken the prerequisite courses in human anatomy, human physiology, microbiology, nutrition, developmental psychology  and statistics (see If admitted, you will take the entire curriculum. No credit will be awarded for previous MEAC midwifery courses.



Do I have to move to Nashville?

The nurse-midwifery program involves on-site coursework in all semesters.  The first Fall and Spring of the specialty year involves onsite courses for several days a week in addition to clinical placements and online courses. In May of the specialty year, students are on-site for a substantial portion of this month. All nurse-midwifery students will need to be in class on-site during the Fall, Spring, and early Summer as well as for block sessions in the second Fall.  Many of our students find that leases that expire or go month-to-month in May or June of the specialty year are ideal for their needs.     


Can I take this specialty part-time?

We offer a part-time option in the specialty year for both midwifery and dual midwifer/FNP students. (part-time curriculum plans

If you are not a nurse, the first year is only offered full-time.  You can request to change to part-time for the specialty components of your MSN. 


What is the specialty portion of the curriculum like?

We front load coursework at the beginning of the program to get you into the clinical setting as quickly as possible. As you progress through the program, there is a greater amount of clinical learning than classroom learning.

In the first fall of the specialty year, students are in class generally 3 days per week, with a lab practicum 1 evening per week in a clinic setting. There is 1 day of clinical practice at a Vanderbilt practice near the end of the semester.

In the spring semester of the specialty year, coursework is arranged to be on 1-2 days of the week, and students are in outpatient clinical practicums (primary care and gyn/antepartum) 3 days per week.

For the summer semester of the specialty year, students are on campus in class for 4-6 days per week in May learning birth and newborn-related skills and knowledge. Students then attend the annual meeting of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (location varies year to year), and then go to their intrapartum/post-partum/newborn clinical practicum for 8 weeks.

Students return to Nashville for the beginning of the final specialty semester. Students will be on campus for 1 week at the beginning of the fall semester for coursework, and then will go to their final clinical practicum for a 10-week rotation. At the end of their final clinical practicum, students return to campus to take their comprehensive examination, give presentations, and participate in simulations. (sample block schedule).


What are the clinical requirements for this specialty?

We use the American College of Nurse-Midwives Core Competencies as the basis for our curriculum and clinical competencies. In order to be prepared for practice, students need to meet all the competencies. We provide several different clinical rotations to assist students in meeting clinical competencies.  Over the course of the program, we provide access to 945 clinical hours, divided into the rotations described below.  These clinical rotations will be at variety of sites and the intrapartum and integration rotations will involve night and weekend call.  Please see the graphics below on the location and length of each clinical rotation


Can I work full-time and go to school full-time?

We strongly recommend that students do not attempt full-time school while working full-time. The few students who have successfully completed full-time school while working used flex time or accrued compensatory time to continue to work. Some have worked weekend shifts only. With the intensive clinical in the specialty year, it would be extremely difficult to maintain a job and meet the demands of the clinical practicum.


Do I find my own preceptor?

We find clinical preceptors for all of our students.  Our clinical placement staff spearheads the formation of contracts and credentialing for all students. 


How do you match me with a clinical preceptor?

Faculty work diligently to match you with appropriate preceptors so you can learn from clinical mentors and apply your new skills and knowledge. Many of our preceptors are alumni of the program. Students have input in the site matching process, providing faculty with information on their preferences of clinical settings and populations with which they would like to work.


Is travel required as a part of my clinical placement?

Yes!  You will have multiple clinical sites throughout the midwifery specialty year. We want to rotate you through different outpatient and inpatient settings to provide you with ample opportunities to learn from preceptors and see different midwifery practices. On our exit surveys, most students report being in different sites was one of the best aspects of the program, as they are better prepared to practice in diverse midwifery settings. At least one of your clinical placements will be outside of the Nashville area. 

After Graduation


What will my credentials and certifications be?

Graduation from this MSN specialty prepares you to take the national certification exam, offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Once you have also passed the certification exam, you will be a Certified Nurse Midwife (ACNM).

Certified Nurse-Midwives are usually licensed as Advanced Practice Nurses in most states. To learn about the specific state certification and laws for CNM practice in your area, look at the websites of individual state boards of nursing or midwifery and the American College of Nurse-Midwives. While CNMs practice around the globe, midwifery regulation occurs at the state or national level and individuals may need additional certifications or licensure to practice outside of the United States.  


What is the VUSN student pass rate on the certification exams?

Our students typically score well above national averages on the American Midwifery Certification Board exams. See MSN Exam Rates for more information. 


Will I earn my nursing license?

If you enter without a nursing degree, you will take the NCLEX to obtain your Tennessee RN license after the prespecialty year.


Will I be able to get a job upon graduation?

Vanderbilt’s Nurse-Midwifery specialty has a stellar national reputation; graduates from our specialty are well-equipped to start their careers. Certain geographic areas of the country such as the Northeast, Southwest, and Northwest have a high demand for nurse-midwifery services. Students who are flexible in where they would like to work and are open to practicing in health professional shortage areas do not often have any trouble finding a job after graduation. 


Can I get a DNP Degree? 

Yes!  Our MSN program is designed for you to seamlessly transition to our DNP program. After successful completion of one semester of the NM curriculum, you complete an abbreviated application to indicate your interest in progressing to the DNP program; no additional application fee is required. You can either progress directly into the DNP program, or you can take a gap year to work as a CNM before starting the DNP program. The advantage of earning the MSN degree before the DNP degree is that you will be able to work as a CNM during your DNP program. The DNP program is designed for APRNs who are working full or part time. See DNP program details at