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Becoming a midwife

Becoming a midwifeDiscover what you need to become a midwife and learn about your career options once you’ve qualified.

Would a career in midwifery be suitable for me?

Midwives need to have a number of qualities in order to fulfil their role. The public expect a midwife to be:

  • intuitive, kind, caring and objective
  • able to act as an advocate for women
  • a good team player, and able 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 able to maintain accurate and contemporaneous records

Course entry requirements

The minimum requirement for degree courses is two A-levels. Or NVQ level 3, BTEC National Access to Higher Education course. Science is one of the preferred subjects. 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 the theoretical background and hands-on practical experience with women and their families. The length of the course varies between three to four 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 practise 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 practising, all practising midwives are required to notify their intention to practice on an annual basis.

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 centred 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 starts at £19,166 per year excluding payment for unsocial hours and on call rota. A midwife has the potential to earn £60,880 as a consultant midwife.

What are the future prospects?

Midwives have an opportunity 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, foetal 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.

(Information taken from the Royal College of Midwives)

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