After making all the other considerations and decisions necessary to define your midwifery path, you will probably be faced with a test for midwifery certification. The idea of competency testing has never bothered me personally, quite possibly because I am a good test taker. While I know standardized tests result in skewed passing rates (with minorities faring worse), this isn’t really the complaint I ever hear about midwifery certification tests. Instead, would-be midwives complain the test is meaningless and doesn’t prove you are a good midwife. I hope such concerns won’t keep any potential midwife from seeking certification, so here are a few other ways to think about the process — and a few hints to help you make good certification decisions.
First, remember that a certification test is not about proving yourself to be a good midwife. Such a test is about ensuring you have the minimum competency required to provide safe care. This is not unique to midwifery, all industries which use minimum competency based testing set such a bar. Why? The point of the test is not to hinder capable midwives from practicing, but from preventing unprepared midwives from practicing. As a midwife, you will be the first to respond to problems which may be life threatening for the mother or baby. The point of competency based testing is to ensure you know the safest way to react in such situations. It was once explained to me, the test is just to make sure you are not likely to kill someone as you begin to practice independently. A bit morbid, but it demonstrates the difference between what a competency test is and what some midwives wish a certification test was.
Secondly, competency tests are heavily weighted to the most common situations you are likely to face with a few questions about the most important decisions you may have to make in dangerous situations. They were never designed to test everything you need to know to be a midwife. Such a test would be nearly impossible to administer or take — imagine how long it would need to be.
Finally, competency tests are only one piece of the certification package. You also need to show successful completion of your education, including hands on practice at births. You need to have another midwife attest to your competence as a midwife. All these pieces come together to form your certification package — the test is usually the last piece.
If you have made it this far and still are not sure what educational path is right for you, take a look at the certification programs available. Notice these things:
How often will you be required to recertify?
How much work will you need to complete to recertify?
How many births must you attend to recertify?
How long will it take before you are able to act as a preceptor (if you so choose)?
How long will it take before you are able to act as a teacher (if you so choose)?
Will this certification be accepted in every state/country where you wish to work?
What other questions do you find important when choosing between two (or more) certification options?