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Student midwives: Born into debt and delivered to the dole

Two RCM surveys of student midwives and newly qualified midwives revealed startling results, when released at the recent RCM annual student conference.

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One survey of 803 students and newly qualified midwives found that more than 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. A total of 62% 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 student midwives found that almost three-quarters (73%) expect to be in debt at the end of their course and more than a third (35%) left the course due to the financial burden.
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.’
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick 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.
‘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.
RCM student services advisor Sue Jacob 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.’