Midwifery: What is Required for a Career as a Midwife?
Midwives don't just deliver babies, in fact they work with expectant mothers throughout pregnancy labour and the postnatal period. A midwife is there to support the mother and help her make the right decisions for her and her baby's welfare.
The pressures and challenges that midwives face are diverse. As a midwife, you should be patient, objective, compassionate and dependable - you'll be helping mothers through one of the most difficult and emotional times in their lives and dealing with complicated health issues on a regular basis. You'll also be expected to work as part of a team - women going through pregnancy interact with a large number of people, including doctors, nurses and hospital staff.
What do midwives do?
The duties of the midwife usually begin from the point a woman discovers she is pregnant, to when the babies reach 4 weeks old. In addition to health monitoring duties, midwives have to be sensitive to the individual requirements of each pregnancy - identifying areas of risk and communicating these issues to doctors. Regular responsibilities of midwives include:
- Arranging health education for expecting mothers and their wider family - and attempting to encourage participation.
- Offering support and advice in the event of complications and providing counselling where necessary.
- Supervising and assisting with labour, monitoring the condition of the baby and advising on the use of pain medication.
- Offering post-natal advice, including daily care for the baby and liaising with other health and social agencies to ensure continuing care.
The support and advisory duties of the midwife are varied - and change from case to case. Midwives need to be flexible and prepared to react to rapid changes in each individual pregnancy.
All midwife positions require completion of an approved midwifery degree. If you are already a qualified nurse, you will be able to take a shortened version of the course. Midwifery degrees take three years, while the short programme takes only 78 weeks of full time education.
Unfortunately there isn't a 'short-cut' route into the profession - the three year degree is a necessity, even where candidates already hold a undergraduate qualification. Like other higher education courses, applications in the UK go through UCAS - places are limited and competitive and many candidates apply with more than the minimum requirements.
If your application is successful you will be called in for an interview - usually with a lecturer and qualified midwife. Interviews will test your commitment to the profession and your knowledge of the wider industry - make sure you're up to date with developments in maternity practice and infant healthcare. Although there is currently a shortage of midwives in Britain, the importance of the position means that the training process must remain intensive and demanding.
To make yourself stand out from the crowd, it's worth looking for work experience - you can approach your local maternity unit to request this and placements may vary in duration. Alternatively, you could seek a position in a volunteer organisation related to the profession - such as a new parent or hospital patient support group.