How To Become A Midwife

Anyone who has been there at the beginning of a new life coming into the world can testify as to what a moving experience it is, and it is an experience that midwives get every single working day. Whether it be working on the wards or in the community, midwives are a vital group, guiding often uneasy parents through the confusions of pregnancy, the birthing process, and caring for their new babies once they are born. At once challenging and immensely rewarding, midwifery is a career that people come to from all walks of life as well as all educational backgrounds.

 

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What unites all midwives, however, is that they have had to undertake degree-level education. There are a vast array of different education options, but hopefully this guide will be able to cover most of them, as well as highlighting the immense benefits in the career that can be gained from a postgraduate qualification. Whether midwifery is a speciality you pick up along the course of another medical degree, or your choice of subject right from the first day of UCAS applications, a postgraduate degree could really boost your prospects.

What Undergraduate Qualifications Are Needed?

Whatever way you choose, you need to find a degree that leads to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Broadly speaking, there are two undergraduate routes into doing this. The first and most obvious route to take is a three year BSc in Midwifery itself, a course that is half theory and half supervised practice in the community and in hospital. For those looking for wider experience, a BSc in Nursing may be more advisable. Again this is a three year course split between practical and theory, a nursing degree trains you in nursing more generally (improving your prospects for career progression), and gives you options to specialise both within the degree itself and going on into postgraduate level.
How to become a midwife

What Should I Study At Postgraduate Level?

The choice of what Midwifery course to study at postgraduate level really depends on what you studied at undergraduate level, although eventually the options converge. If you studied nursing at bachelor degree level, once you have qualified as a nurse you have the option to take an additional course that is an 18-month fast track midwifery program. This is a postgraduate program that can be taken by anyone who has qualified as a nurse, so classes are often split between those progressing straight from their BSc and those who have been nurses for some time and are looking for further qualification. If you are the former (or completed your nursing course within the last two years), many universities will offer you the chance of converting your BSc in nursing to an MSc diploma in midwifery. A 78-week full-time course, most programs are funded by the NHS.

Even if your first degree was in something other than healthcare, many universities will allow you to take this fast-track course to gain a pre-registration health qualification that can lead you into becoming an accredited midwife. The process from this ‘top-up’ degree into registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council differs with each university, so they are worth contacting to get more information, but all the courses share this shortened degree time, giving you a route into healthcare that is a year shorter than the traditional three-year course.

Even if your first degree was already in midwifery, postgraduate options are crucial for those looking to progress in their career, as well as those who want to undertake training and research that will help all expectant mothers. One such option is to take a Masters or Doctorate in Clinical Research. Some take these degrees to undertake crucial medical research, others take them to become midwifery lecturers themselves, teaching the next generation of midwives, whilst others simply take them to advance their skills and competencies to increase their NHS banding, meaning more status and higher wages. Whatever your reasons, most universities offer teaching and research postgraduate qualifications that every day are improving patient care. If you want to do this research whilst also maintaining your clinical practice, the NHS even offers what is called an Integrated Clinical Academic Program that allows you to do care-improving research without sacrificing the hands-on work that interested you in midwifery in the first place.

What Work Experience Should I Consider?

With most if not all midwifery programs offering a good split between classroom work and field work in hospitals and communities, many find they come out of their midwifery degrees with a substantial body of work experience already. However, some may wish to offer their services in clinical support roles. As well as widening your career prospects, these jobs often give a midwife experience in areas their degree does not have time to cover, improving their manner with patients and ultimately making them more successful midwives. Like midwifery in general, these are split between hospital roles – say, clinical support in a labour or postnatal unit – and ones within the community visiting new mothers.

Many might find themselves biased to hospital work as being ‘where the action is’, but community work is equally important and far more varied, giving you experiences that feed right back into making you a better, more empathetic nurse. What is more, these community services often find themselves drastically understaffed, so any help you are able to give them benefits both your career and countless parents.

Student Case Study

Chloe, a student at London’s City University, qualified as a nurse nearly two years ago. After qualifying, she worked for some time in a hospital before realising she wanted to specialise in midwifery. “I loved being a nurse,” she said “but after my older sister gave birth I realised that being a midwife was my true passion.” Once she realised this she applied at her alma mater City to their 78-week midwifery program, allowing her a second registration as a midwife on top of the one she already has as a nurse. Now a year in to her course, she “cannot wait to get started as a trained midwife. It is hard work splitting your time between hospitals and the classroom, but so worth it!”

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