A special thank you to a certified nurse midwife working at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Israel for this interview.
Please provide us with a brief description of your field
I am a certified nurse midwife, working (for the past 7 years) at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. We deliver about 600+ babies per month (quite busy!) and I also work in the Natural Birth Center (connected to, but separate from, the delivery ward in Hadassah) where we work in a semi-private setting for women who want more natural births and one-on-one midwife care.
What types of backgrounds are relevant for someone looking to become a Midwife?
I am going to start with what I went through in order to get licensed here in Israel. I went to nursing school (BSN program), worked in a hospital labor and delivery unit for 2 years, and then went to a midwifery program at Downstate and have been working as a midwife (CNM) since 1987. I made Aliyah in 2003, having already done all the research on what I would need to do to become licensed and be able to practice in Israel. So, although it was a very long process- it took me about 2 years to finally be able to work, it definitely helped that I knew what to expect and that I had gathered all of the details, papers, transcripts, etc. that I would need in order to begin the process.
Is there any kind of license or certification you need, to work as a Midwife in Israel?
I had to sit for the national Nursing boards exam (which I believe is given twice a year), and at the time, Hebrew was the only option. Luckily I passed, and then had to get “accepted” to the Midwifery program in order to complete a small amount of coursework, and do 350 hours of “internship” with assigned preceptors at a hospital. After that, I was “invited” to sit for the Midwifery national exam, and about 6 weeks later, received my license to practice. All told, it took about 2 years from my Aliyah date to be able to work.
What education and experience should an Oleh looking to go into Midwifery come with?
I have a few comments about that process:
I would encourage a new Oleh to take the exam in Hebrew, because then you will be forced to learn all of the terms in Hebrew; for me it was like a mini-self taught medical Ulpan.
I would HIGHLY encourage regular Ulpan (which I did at the same time as studying for the Nursing Boards in my first 6 months here). It is critical to have a good command of the language in order to work as a nurse or midwife.
With all of the experience and seniority I came with, it was quite a humbling experience to be back in a “student” role in my field, but it was actually very worthwhile as it certainly helped me improve my language skills, and oriented me to the way things are done here.
Does it make a difference if you study in Israel or abroad?
People considering midwifery often ask me if they should get their degree/studies in the States, or here. I think it makes more sense to go through Nursing school and Midwifery here -if one has the choice. First of all, you would not have to repeat everything over again, and secondly, you learn it in the language and the style you will be practicing.
One of the main differences between practicing midwifery here and in the States, is that here, midwives deliver the great majority of babies, but that is their main function. In the States, midwives practice full-scope midwifery. That is to say, midwives are primary care providers and do prenatal care, GYN care, can be in private practice.
Here, most midwives work in hospitals, with the conditions that come with that work: 8-12 hour shifts, usually including all shifts (day/evening/night) and certainly including Shabbat and Chag (everyone in Israel, Shomer Shabbat or not, wants Shabbat and Chagim off!).
What are the requirements to become a Midwife in Israel?
The requirements here are to go to nursing school and work as a nurse for some time before applying for the “course al basisi” (advanced course) in midwifery.
The amount of time depends on the demand for spots in the midwifery programs at the time (there are usually 2 programs most years). If you are working in a hospital, the hospital may “sponsor” you to go to the course. If so, it will happen when it is good for them to send you. The program itself is about 10 months and includes course work and clinical experience. Most people work while attending the program. After completing the course, you will take the national certification exam, and then apply for a job.
Is Midwifery more in demand in certain areas of Israel?
Most hospitals are looking for midwives at any given time. Outside of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it is probably easier to find jobs more quickly.
There are several midwives, who work in kupot cholim or other outpatient settings, but they don’t really practice midwifery per se – they work as nurses. There are also home birth practices for more experienced midwives.
What is the salary range?
The pay, as most salaries in Israel, is disappointing, especially if you are coming from the States and used to a nursing or midwifery salary from there. The base salary is very low; most of the money you make is from doing “mishmarot” (shifts).
The bottom line is- Midwifery is a very rewarding, exciting and challenging career. The reason we all stay, even with all of the difficult conditions in the job, is because we love what we do – what could be better than helping deliver babies into the world?!