Keep your career on track

By Michelle Lyne on 03 September 2018 Midwives Magazine Leadership Career

The RCM career framework encourages a more reflective attitude to your work and helps map out future directions Michelle Lyne explains how you can fulfil your ambitions.

Thousands of students across the UK at the time of writing are anxiously awaiting results that could help launch them on their future career trajectories. I still recall my own anxieties at that time and wonder if I would have done anything differently if I were to plan my career today.

Working in the NHS has always been challenging, but today it seems even more so. Resources are severely stretched, with staff often feeling undervalued and unable to give women the high-quality care they need and that midwives want to provide. Many newly qualified practitioners feel dissatisfied with the level of care they can give, and are unhappy with the workload, culture and working conditions, and the lack of ongoing support, training and development. All of which can result in midwives leaving the profession – often as early as two years after qualifying.

If we are to retain our maternity workforce, we need to consider how we address these issues through leadership, positive role-modelling and motivating midwives to remain in the profession. We are also experiencing increasing difficulty recruiting into senior roles, with a lack of succession planning and development to facilitate career progression.

I have had a long and varied career as a midwife but I believe that, other than deciding very early in my training to be a nurse that I wanted to be a midwife, my career was left to chance: I just seemed to be in the right place as opportunities arose.

The next generation

For the purposes of this article, let us subscribe to the stereotyping of generational cohort typologies: along with a quarter of the current NHS workforce (Jones et al, 2015), I am a baby boomer. We typically entered the NHS workforce with the intention of gaining a job for life, so just went with whatever the journey presented, providing it offered job security – even at the expense of our families. Those following us, generations X and Y, view life and careers differently. They are more likely to be determined to achieve a more family-orientated career; while being ambitious, they often have more than one career. They prefer to know what their journey has to offer. Research with newly qualified midwives and nurses has shown the needs and expectations of these staff members (see NQM job satisfaction, right).

Our members have told us that they have rarely if ever had any career guidance. If we are to challenge the decision to leave, the profession needs to follow through on the initial investment in training staff by consolidating and building on their skills, motivating them and giving them reasons to stay in the NHS.

A new career framework

You can find many career frameworks that have been developed for health professionals, but these are predominantly driven by the nursing agenda. For the RCM, it was important to determine what a career in maternity services could look like. We must develop our highly skilled workforce into one that has the scope to provide world-class maternity care beyond 2020. The RCM career framework will:

  • Provide a clear profession-specific career structure
  • Contribute to improving outcomes for women, their babies and families
  • Enhance lifelong learning
  • Build capacity and leadership within the profession.

The framework identifies key roles and the core competencies required to undertake that role. These are followed by the added professional competencies needed to progress your career.

Career paths can provide direction in two ways. They can be defined, linear paths: these are paths trodden by ‘most people’ following that route into a particular job. It has a logical sequence but limited opportunity for alternative routes of entry. Alternatively, people choose their own pathway by seeking out the experiences they need in order to progress. Within the maternity workforce, very few careers are linear; there is often frequent movement between the four pillars of clinical practice, management, education and research (see figure below), and many choose careers that straddle two or more.

Identifying the education, training, knowledge and expertise we expect of the maternity workforce will be a valuable resource for members, employers, educators, health and education commissioners.

The first version of the career framework focuses on roles within the NHS and universities. Not everybody will be able to see their specific job title because the career framework is currently an illustration of a sample of destinations beyond entry to the maternity workforce. The examples included provide you with an explanation of what the post entails, the knowledge, skills and expertise required for that position and options for progression should you be considering ‘What next?’

It features inspiring real-life case studies that describe career journeys and offer reflections on the challenging and rewarding aspects of their role. We have also included videos of people talking about their roles.

Future destinations

To support your ongoing development, signposts to resources such as within i-learn and the new RCM leadership programme can help you develop your practical, management, leadership and research skills in readiness for embarking on your next career move.

As the career framework develops, it will include more existing and new roles within the NHS as well as in professional organisations, trade unions, charities and government bodies.

The RCM career framework will be situated within i-learn and will be launched later this year.

NQM job satisfaction

  • A clear, structured career pathway
  • To feel support personally and professionally from leaders and teams
  • To be part of a team
  • Feedback, guidance and development
  • Flexible ways of working to achieve a good work/life balance
  • Support to deliver the quality of care
  • To be engaged in meaningful work that makes a difference.

(Jones et al, 2015)

Michelle Lyne is RCM professional education advisor.