• midwifery care;
  • nursing;
  • nurse-midwife;
  • data collection;
  • benchmarking;
  • Optimality Index;
  • dataset;
  • health outcomes;
  • data collection;
  • clinical practice;
  • statistics

Most midwives are aware of the need to collect clinical practice data and of its usefulness in supporting the care they provide, which contributes to healthy outcomes for mothers and babies. For the individual midwife, there is more than one easily accessible, standardized data collection instrument from which to choose. However, despite these choices, in an American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) Division of Research (DOR) survey on midwifery clinical data collection (N = 263), the majority of member respondents (n = 135; 51%) reported using a self-designed data collection tool, and more than one-third did not know of the ACNM Nurse-Midwifery Clinical Data Sets (NMCDS). On a larger scale, the midwifery profession is also in need of an organized and consistent approach to data collection for the purpose of capturing midwifery practice and outcomes in order to provide data to support legislation, practice, and policy changes. However, the profession currently lacks a single common midwifery practice database. In order to facilitate data aggregation that captures a larger view of midwifery practice at the local, regional, and national levels, it is imperative that all midwives collect relevant data that are uniform and standardized, and that the midwifery professional organizations move forward with the development of a common electronic database. This article describes currently available data collection tools as well as their best uses, applications to practice, and future directions.