Interested in becoming a midwife?
What does a midwife do?
When people think about midwives, they often think about birth. They picture a midwife assisting a woman as they give birth to her newborn baby. This is a vital part of a midwife's work, but the role includes so much more.
A midwife is usually the first and main contact for the woman during her pregnancy, throughout labour and the early postnatal period. Midwives are responsible for providing care and supporting women to make informed choices about their care. They carry out clinical examinations, provide health and parent education and support women and their families throughout the childbearing process to help them adjust to their parental role. The midwife also works in partnership with other health and social care services to meet individual needs; for example, young adults, women who are socially excluded, disabled and from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Midwives are responsible for their own individual practice and have a statutory responsibility to keep up to date with current knowledge. The title ‘midwife’ and the function of a midwife is protected in law. For more information visit NHS Health Careers.
How midwives work
Midwives work in all health care settings in urban, remote and rural settings; for example, in the maternity unit of a large general hospital, in smaller stand-alone maternity units, in private maternity hospitals, in group practices, at birth centres, with general practitioners and in the community.
The majority of midwives practise within the NHS, working with other midwives or as part of a small team, with other health care professionals such as obstetricians, neonatologists, anaesthetists, general practitioners, health visitors and support staff. There are also a small group of midwives who practice within social enterprise schemes. Midwives provide woman-centred integrated care, which requires them to work shifts over 7 days of the week including day and night duty. Many midwives have on-call rotas and work both within a hospital or community setting such as birth centres, midwifery led units and a woman’s home.
Once registered, midwives can progress their career in clinical practice. For example in specialist midwife roles in perinatal mental health or public health, education, for example as a lecturer working in universities, or practice education, research, undertaking and supporting research projects, leadership and management, clinical governance and supervision. Midwives may choose to undertake further post registration education and study at masters or doctorate level. See the RCM Career Framework for examples and case studies of midwifery career pathways.
Frequently asked questions about becoming a midwife
You can become a midwife by undertaking a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approved degree course at an approved university leading to a midwifery qualification with NMC registration. A midwifery degree is a minimum of three years and 4600 hours split between academic and clinical education.
Current registered nurses on the adult part of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register can opt to undertake an additional programme of education and gain a second professional registration as midwife. The post graduate shortened route comprises a minimum of two years and 3600 split between academic and clinical education.
For applicants with a previous first degree, there are some pre-registration midwifery MSc course providing a post graduate option to become a midwife at master’s level. A full list of approved universities can be found on the NMC website.
There are also a few universities in England offering degree-level apprenticeship. Find out more information on the RCM apprenticeships webpage.
Each university will have its own specific entry criteria, so it is best to check with the individual institution.
Application is through the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). If you are applying to do the shortened programme you may be able to apply directly to the university. Whichever route you take, you will gain an academic qualification and once you're registered with the NMC, you'll be able to practise as a midwife.
Entry can be competitive, and many students have qualifications and experience higher than the minimum requirements. It is beneficial to have some experience of health or social care, even if this is on a voluntary basis.
Further information can be found at www.nhscareers.nhs.uk.
Student midwives must complete an NMC approved pre-registration midwifery programme in order to meet the Standards of proficiency for midwives and be eligible to apply for entry to the NMC register. The Standards are the outcomes that each midwife must achieve at the point of registration and are grouped under six domains: 1) Being an accountable, autonomous midwife. 2) Safe and effective midwifery care: promoting and providing continuity of care and carer. 3) Universal care for all women and newborn infants. 4) Additional care for women and newborn infants with complications. 5) Promoting excellence: the midwife as colleague, scholar and leader. 6) The midwife as skilled practitioner.
The Standards are drawn on the evidence-informed definition of midwifery and the framework for quality maternal and newborn care from the Lancet Series on Midwifery 2014.
Midwifery students experience 50% of midwifery theory and 50% in practice learning on course, using a range of learning and teaching strategies. The RCM student midwife webinar series gives insight into the experiences of students and listen to the journeys of three student midwives across the UK in the RCM podcast.
More resources are available on the RCM Student Hub.
Speak to the university that you wish to apply to. It is advisable to attend any open evening/open day events and speak to the midwifery academic team, as this is a great opportunity to gain information about the course and its specific requirements. It will also give you the opportunity to meet current students and discover what the course is really like. Find out how the course is structured, where your clinical placements are likely to be and what support is available. Remember it is just as important that you pick the right course for you as it is for the university to select the right candidates.
Obtaining some work experience in a maternity unit or in a health or social care setting may also be helpful, as is having a conversation with a midwife, however gaining an observational experience may be difficult. So may sure you do your research to understand what the role of the midwife is and develop an understanding of the wider health issues that may affect maternity care. This will help you to confirm that a career in midwifery is right for you. Some people seek employment as a healthcare support worker, and this can be helpful in giving you an opportunity to work alongside midwives, women and babies, and this gives a picture of what it might be like to be a midwife.
When you have received all the application documentation, it is important that you make every effort to complete the form correctly and truthfully. Make a copy and complete a draft first. It is a good idea to then get this looked at by someone else for spelling mistakes and errors and then, when you are happy with it, complete the final form. Keep a copy of your application, as during your interview you are likely to be asked questions about your statement.
You will need to prepare a strong personal statement to evidence that you understand the role of the midwife and what you did to find out that midwifery was the right career choice for you. You will not be expected to be an expert on what a midwife does, but they will expect you to have done some preparation. Think about the values or qualities of being a good midwife and what evidence you have of these. Don’t just list all things that you have done but highlight experiences that demonstrate what you have learnt and how that experience is transferable to midwifery.
Input from others may be helpful advice but remember this is your personal statement and the reviewers want to hear your voice. If your statement is successful, you will be interviewed so make sure your personality shines through on the statement, and that you can back up your claims with evidence. Ensure that spelling and grammar is correct and avoid slang or abbreviated language (LOL). Keep it simple and clear.
Applications for degree programmes should be submitted to UCAS.
If you are invited for an interview, take your time to prepare for it. Interviews vary, but often involve some general discussions, group work and role play. Some universities may ask you to complete a timed written essay on a topic which you should have been given information about prior to the interview. You may also be asked to complete a short maths test to demonstrate an understanding of basic maths. There could also be a one-to-one interview, usually with at least two interviewers who are likely to be a university midwifery lecturer, a clinical midwife and perhaps a maternity service user.
To give yourself your best chance during this interview, you should prepare in advance so that you are well informed about recent news related to midwifery, infant and other health care-related issues. All of this preparation will ensure you have a good understanding of the role of the midwife and what support they can offer new parents. Then, if you are asked why you want to be a midwife, you will avoid cliches such as ‘I really like babies' or 'because I watched a midwifery TV programme'; it may have sparked your interest but what did you do to find out the realities of the profession? It is important that you are aware that the role and responsibilities of qualified midwives are different from other associate healthcare professional roles, such as nursing.
The courses are demanding as you will be undertaking academic study whilst also working clinical shifts. You therefore need to be able to demonstrate that you have an understanding of the rigours and demands of the course, that you are able to organise your time effectively and that you have support from family and friends.
It is disappointing when you receive the news that you are unsuccessful. Midwifery is a popular choice for university courses and demand for places is often more than capacity. Think of the process as positive learning experience to improve your application for next time. Request feedback from the university if you can and address their comments when you apply again. Consider what courses or experiences you can do in the meantime to gain more insight. Many successful practising midwives were not successful on their first application.
As you might imagine, many people seek work experience prior to applying for a midwifery place and it can be difficult to arrange. The best way forward is to contact the Head of Midwifery Services at your local maternity unit and request a placement or shadowing opportunity, providing details of name and address. We recommend that you make it very clear that you are interested in pursuing a career in midwifery, and what point you are at in terms of that journey. This puts you at an advantage over someone who makes a request because they are generally interested in working in a hospital or with babies. Placements will vary in length – you may be offered a day or a couple of days, or a week of experience, perhaps even more. It depends very much on the volume of other people, and whether there is a midwife that you can shadow and observe.
Another choice would be to find work experience that would illustrate your skills in communication/working with the public then you can show how you would apply those skills to maternity care. Things like volunteer work can be really useful, especially as it helps to build confidence in talking to people. Find out what maternity or mother and baby groups there are in your area and consider attending, for example, infant feeding support groups to hear from service users about their experiences and what was important from their midwife.
Financial support varies across the UK countries.
For information about funding, please visit these resources or speak to you local university for guidance.
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