Training to be a midwife
A midwife does more than just deliver babies. Because she is present at every birth, whether at home or in hospital, she touches everyone's life. A midwife is usually the first and main contact for the expectant mother during her pregnancy, and throughout labour and postnatal period. She helps mothers to make informed choices about the services and options available to them by providing as much information as possible.
The role of the midwife is very diverse. She carries out clinical examinations, provides health and parent education and supports the mother and her family throughout the childbearing process to help them adjust to their parental role. The midwife also works in partnership with other health and social care services to meet individual mother's needs, for example, teenage mothers, mothers who are socially excluded, disabled mothers and mothers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Midwives are responsible for their own individual practice and have a statutory responsibility to keep up to date with current knowledge. All midwives have a named Supervisor of Midwives to assist them with updating their knowledge and to ensure their practice is safe. It is the only profession that has statutory supervision to protect the public from incompetent practitioners.
Working conditions and pay
Midwives work in all health care settings; they work in the maternity unit of a large general hospital, in smaller stand-alone maternity units, in private maternity hospitals, in group practice, at birth centres, with general practitioners and in the community. The majority of midwives practice within the NHS, working with other midwives in a team and other health care professional and support staff. Midwives can also practice independently and there is a small group of midwives who do so.
Midwives provide woman centered integrated care, which requires them to work shifts, day and night duty, be prepared to take on-call rotas and travel between hospital or institution and mother’s home. The midwives' pay and working conditions are determined by the new NHS pay system called Agenda for Change. A newly qualified midwife's salary on the Island starts at £27,228 per year excluding payment for unsocial hours and on call rota. A midwife has the potential to £60,880 as a consultant midwife.
You can enter the midwifery profession directly by undertaking a degree course leading to a midwifery qualification. Midwifery courses are provided by a number of universities as undergraduate programmes at degree level.
The minimum requirement for degree courses is 2 A levels. Science subjects are preferred. NVQ/SVQ Level 3, the BTEC National Diploma, or equivalent access to higher education programmes run by colleges of further education, are alternatives. Application to the degree route is through UCAS. You will gain a degree and Registered Midwife qualification.
Entry is very competitive, and many students have higher than minimum requirements; each university has its own specific criteria, so it is best to check with the individual institution.
About the course and qualifications
The degree courses are organised to give you both the theoretical background and hands-on practical experience with women and their families. The length of the course varies between 3 to 4 years. You can access shortened midwifery courses following a nursing qualification if you prefer to do a nursing course first.
The midwifery course is organised in modules, which include biological sciences, applied sociology and psychology, professional practice and others. Each module is assessed, usually through continuous assignments, but you may find universities are reintroducing examinations as part of assessments. To practice as a midwife you must be registered with the statutory body for nursing, midwifery and health visiting. This is the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The Council maintains a register of midwives. To remain on the Register, midwives must update their knowledge and maintain a professional portfolio as evidence of their updating. To enable the Council to know which midwives are practicing, all practicing midwives are required to notify their intention to practice on an annual basis.
A career in midwifery
Midwives need to have a number of qualities in order to fulfill their role. The public expect a midwife to be:
- intuitive, kind, caring and objective
- able to act as an advocate for women and take responsibility for her own actions
- a good team player, and to work in partnership with other professionals
- flexible and adaptable to mothers' circumstances and needs
- prepared to look after all women, irrespective of class, creed, economic status, race or age
- accepting of women and the circumstances in which they live
- professional, and to maintain accurate and contemporaneous records.
Midwives have an opportunity to work in different health care settings, and gain experience in all aspects of caring for mothers and babies. Midwives have an option to develop their midwifery career in many different ways. It may be as a clinical specialist as a consultant midwife, or in management as a head of midwifery services or supervisor of midwives at local authority level. Some midwives prefer to pursue an academic career in education and research. Midwives have developed innovative specialist roles for example, in ultrasound, fetal medicine, intensive care neonatal units, public health, parenting education and many others. The opportunities are endless in the health service. There are also opportunities for midwives in work in the European Community or overseas with Voluntary Service Overseas.
Useful addresses for further information:
NHS Careers provides advice and information on all careers in the NHS in England. It also has a database of all universities that provide midwifery courses.
New Barn Lane
+44 1242 223707
UCAS handles all degree applications. As well as information about universities, this site includes a searchable database of university access courses.
23 Portland Place
020 7637 7181
The NMC maintains a register of all practising midwives, nurses and health visitors. It is a statutory body and is there to protect the public, hence it has a role in investigating allegations of professional misconduct and negligent practice.
15 Mansfield St
The Royal College of Midwives exists to protect the professional interests of midwives and to advance the art and science of midwifery.
Further information about bursaries, and contact information for other countries within the UK, may be found at the NHS Careers financial support page. Detailed information may be found in the booklets published by NHS Student Bursaries: these are updated each year, and may be downloaded from their website.
NHS Pensions Agency
The NHSPA web site also has useful information about financial support. Overseas students should note in particular the information about personal eligibility for NHS funding.