Celebrating midwifery: time to reset?

By Fiona Gibb, Director Professional Midwifery, RCM on 09 May 2023 Maternity Services RCM UK Midwives Midwifery Workforce IDM - International Day of the Midwife Midwifery NHS Staff Education Equality and Diversity Research

Fiona Gibb, Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) Director Professional Midwifery, shares ways that midwives can reclaim and promote our professional identity, with emphasis on education, research, leadership and growing a supportive, collaborative network.

Midwifery and maternity services are navigating a turbulent time with many feeling that the role of the midwife is under threat or not properly understood. We need a reset; to reclaim and promote our professional identity, and there is no better springboard to amplify our voices than International Day of the Midwife (IDM), which took place last week (5 May).  

For this year’s IDM, I reflected on what is within our control to change the narrative and what the RCM and many others do to promote the role of midwives, enhance public perception and encourage the recruitment and retention of midwives for the future. Here is what I found:

Supportive work environments that prioritise staff wellbeing and work-life balance, acknowledge the midwife’s professional autonomy and can impact on recruitment and retention of midwives. It seems simple enough but workplaces that provide access to resources and support addressing issues such as workload, and workplace culture can support midwives to thrive rather than just survive. Access more on this via the Caring for You hub

Public and service user engagement can help raise the profile of midwives to infinity and beyond. Midwives participating in public speaking events, career development programmes and promoting the best in midwifery care can be impactful. Media and social media advocacy can be used to share positive stories and messages about midwifery care. Public support from women and families who use the service can help dispel myths or misconceptions about midwifery and can help raise awareness and promote the role of the midwife among a wider audience, inspiring the next generation. Access the RCM position statements

Interprofessional collaboration with other healthcare providers and stakeholders can help to promote the role of midwives. By building effective interprofessional relationships, fostering teamwork and engaging in collaborative care models we can work together to enhance the recognition and integration of midwifery within the broader healthcare system and help to mark our territory as professionals. find out who the RCM works with

Conducting and sharing research and evidence-based practice that demonstrates the safety, impact and cost-effectiveness of midwifery care. So, by supporting and encouraging midwives to get involved in research and the production of evidence enhances the credibility of midwifery as a profession. Research is key to everything that we do. It acts as the history book of where we have come from, the map of where we can go and the evidence that we are all important. Access the RCM education and research resources

Advocacy and policy support can help to amplify the messages of midwives, our rights and the rights of the women and families in our care. Midwives should engage with policymakers, government agencies, and other stakeholders to promote policies and regulations that support midwifery practice. For example, advocating for pay and pensions, recruitment and retention of staff and appropriate funding for maternity services. Find out about RCM activists

Midwives should provide culturally competent care that recognises and respects the diverse needs, values and preferences of individuals and families. This can help to address health inequalities, promote inclusive care and respect cultural beliefs and practices. Download the Decolonising the curriculum toolkit.

Encouraging ongoing professional development, leadership opportunities and participating in professional organisations can promote the role of the midwife. Examples may include formal education programmes or involvement in local, national and international midwifery associations to enhance professional growth and visibility. Find out how the RCM promotes and supports leadership at every level

Education and awareness about the role and value of midwives in providing safe, high quality and evidence-based care during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. This could involve public education campaigns, engaging in community groups and programmes, and collaborating with other stakeholders to highlight the expertise and contributions of midwives. Access the RCM education hub

Of course, these strategies are no quick fix, but they are a reminder that, even when we feel powerless, we are powerful. Even if we make that small change to advance how we feel in our profession then we are advancing our profession. Beyond IDM we must better connect with the important roles of education, research and leadership while we self-advocate and disseminate our unique professional knowledge and expertise – and be proud to stand alongside our multi-professional colleagues that strive to improve maternity care outcomes across the globe.