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Student Midwives: Born into Debt and Delivered to the Dole

A survey of 803 students and newly qualified midwives by the RCM found that more than a half (52%) of students “strongly agreed” that they were finding it difficult to get a job as a midwife. Nearly three-quarters (74%) said that there were not enough vacancies for the number of midwives seeking jobs and 64% said that they were finding it difficult to get a job in the location that they wanted. Of the respondents, 32% who have started looking for jobs had not secured a midwifery post. Sixty-two percent of students who had not secured a post said they were not optimistic about finding a job as a midwife. More than a third (38%) said they strongly disagreed that there were enough midwifery vacancies for the number of midwives seeking employment.

A second survey of 763 students midwives found that almost three-quarters (73%), or (352), of midwifery students expect to be in debt at the end of their midwifery course and more than a third, 35% left the course due to the financial burden.  The two surveys of student midwives and newly qualified midwives reveal startling results are released today (Tuesday November 15) by the Royal College of Midwives at its annual student conference in Brighton.

One student said: “I am terrified at the prospect of qualifying. I think it is disgusting that scores of talented, enthusiastic midwives are finding themselves out of work because the government doesn’t recognise the need to provide thousands more midwives for the NHS.”

Another student said: “I am in my final year now and so am seen as a form of help, yet I know my future as a qualified midwife and paid midwife is bleak. It’s such a shame that during one of the proudest periods of my life I feel there may not really be anything worth celebrating.”

General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives Cathy Warwick, which has more than 5,000 student members, said: “These surveys underline what the RCM has been saying and campaigning about for some time -- that morale amongst student midwives is plummeting because of their accumulated debts and uncertainty about getting a job after graduating.”

Professor Warwick added: “We have a demographic time bomb with an ageing midwifery population and with many midwives nearing retirement. We need to be nurturing and grooming our next generation of student midwives, as they are our profession’s lifeblood and future.”

The surveys in the UK looked at aspects of student midwives’ work, morale, hopes and aspirations. The results showed that morale among some students was at a nadir. Many students said that that they were being used to plug holes caused by staff shortages and worried about accumulating considerable debt.

One student said: “The biggest obstacle is without doubt finances. The hospital site does not provide any type of student parking and for a full shift the hospital car park is £8, which I cannot afford to pay for each shift.”

Following the survey’s results, the RCM also recommends that the Nursing and Midwifery Council streamlines its processes to ensure that recent midwifery graduates can speedily get their NMC registration so they can practice.  Recent midwifery graduates reported securing jobs but were unable to start work for several months as they were waiting to be registered with the NMC.

Sue Jacob, student services advisor for the RCM, said: “As we are in the midst of both a baby boom and a recession and are facing public spending cuts, the outlook for jobs for recently qualified student midwives is uncertain. We don’t want student midwives to become disillusioned and be used to fill gaps to relieve staff shortages on wards. We need to work together with the Department of Health to find a way for student midwives to use their education and training and get jobs as midwives. If we don’t their education, energy, enthusiasm, and the cost of training them is going to be lost and that would be a tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s money.”
For more information, contact Manuela Fernandes (Manuela.dacosta-fernandes@rcm.org.uk) on 0770 3332 1661, or Colin Beesley (Colin.beesley@rcm.org.uk) on 0770 332 1576 in Brighton on Nov. 15th

Notes to editors

About the RCM
1. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) aims to promote and advance the profession of the midwife. The RCM represents the vast majority of the UK's midwives and is one of the world's oldest and largest midwifery organisations, and celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2006. It is also a trade union. For more information visit the RCM website at www.rcm.org.uk.

About the RCM Student Conference
2. About the RCM’s Student Midwives’ 21sth annual conference “Back to the Future: Shaping the Midwifery Profession,” The Brighton Centre, Brighton, Sussex. http://www.neilstewartassociates.com/sh278s/sh278sbrochureWEB.pdf
About the RCM’s Survey of Student Midwives 2011: UK National Survey
The RCM conducted an online survey during summer 2011. The survey was emailed to the RCM’s student midwife members and was conducted using survey monkey. In total there were 763 respondents. Not all respondents answered all questions.
To view the survey, please visit: http://www.rcm.org.uk/college/your-career/students/
About the Student and Newly Qualified Midwives Employment Survey
The RCM conducted an online survey during October 2011. The survey was emailed to the RCMs student midwife members and the RCMs newly qualified midwife members. The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey. In total there were 853 respondents. Not all respondents answered all questions as there was survey logic used throughout the survey.
To view the survey, please visit: