RCM taking action on more support for newly qualified and early career midwives

on 10 December 2021 Midwifery NHS Midwives Newly Qualified Midwives Preceptorship RCM

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is calling for more support for newly qualified midwives. The call comes in a letter to the UK’s four Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) from the RCM and UNISON with input from a number of other organisations.

The group came together to look at what extra support is needed beyond the normal preceptorships that midwives and nurses get during their first year after qualifying. A survey by UNISON found that 70 per cent of newly qualified midwives and nurses had missed out on key learning experiences during the pandemic. A recent RCM member survey also found that over half (57%) of midwives were considering leaving their job, and the highest levels of dissatisfaction were among midwives with five years or less in the NHS.

Throughout the pandemic, the RCM has worked with student midwives to capture and report their concerns about disruption to their education and clinical placements. It has also heard from midwives about their concerns about providing adequate levels of support in place for newly qualified staff.

“We know our maternity and other health services are still under enormous pressure because of the pandemic, made worse by chronic and significant staff shortages. However, it is vital that newly qualified midwives get the support they need in that critical first year. This is also about ensuring services are of the highest quality and as safe as possible,” said Vicky Richards, the RCM’s National Officer for Wales and who sits on the group. “Newly qualified staff are not getting enough learning opportunities, face-to-face training or the networking opportunities where they can learn and ask questions in a safe space. Their education has been badly disrupted by the pandemic, leading many to feel greater stress and pressure when starting out in their careers, while the midwives trying to support them also feel the sense of responsibility to them while trying to deal with staff shortages. It is UK-wide, and it is a toxic mix that needs urgent attention.”

The letter to the CNOs lays out five principles that national health bodies and employers need to consider to ensure newly qualified midwives and nurses get the support they need. These include:

  • More national support and investment for employers to develop capacity and expertise to support newly qualified staff,
  • Online clinical supervision sessions to support early career midwives and nurses through their first year after qualifying,
  • Providing networking opportunities so they benefit from peer support.

“We are under no illusions that this will be easy to solve but working in collaboration I hope we can find a solution to this pressing issue. These new midwives are our future workforce. The NHS should be nurturing and supporting them as much as possible to equip them to be the best they can be, especially as they take their first steps in the workplace,” said Vicky.

Additional information

See also RCM warns of midwife exodus as maternity staffing crisis grows