What does a midwife do?
Working as a Midwife is about more than just delivering babies. A Midwife is about being with, supporting and caring for women, their partners and families from the early stages of pregnancy, through labour and delivery and into the first phase of post-natal care. Midwives are highly trained, multi-skilled healthcare professionals. Though they work as part of a multi-disciplinary team, liaising with other healthcare professionals, they enjoy a high level of responsibility and independence. Unless serious complications arise, a woman can expect to have her ante and post-natal care needs met by midwives. Midwifery is a challenging career and its duties wide-ranging; from carrying out clinical examinations, providing advice on diet, parenting, infant feeding, providing emotional support, running antenatal classes, assisting births, administering pain-relief drugs, to the monitoring of both healthy and special-care newborns. Midwives practice in a variety of set ups; in hospitals, in community and G P clinics, birthing centres and women's homes. They work shift patterns to provide continual support for women day and night. Midwives do not make decisions for women but are there to provide the right support and information so that women can make their own informed choices about the care they receive before, during and after pregnancy and labour.
Midwives work in partnership with other health and social care services to help them meet the special needs of the mothers and families they are caring for. This may include expectant mothers with a disability, or a teenager who is pregnant.
Midwives are accountable and responsible for their own practice and must keep up to date with current knowledge. In the UK, all midwives have a named supervisor to support and advise them about their clinical practice and professional development.
What kind of person makes a good midwife?
Midwives are likely to be as diverse in character as their client-base, there are no set rules for who should or shouldn't be one. However, this unique profession does require certain unquestionable skills and characteristics; compassion, understanding and intuition, tolerance and objectivity, flexibility, reliability, a mature and responsible attitude and the ability to work independently and as part of a team. To be a Midwife requires enthusiasm and energy, both mental and physical. It is a demanding job for which any applicant must be fit and healthy. Midwives are expected to work unsociable hours, including nights. Think carefully as to whether you're the sort of person who needs their sleep.
People arrive at a career in midwifery from varied backgrounds and by varied pathways. The NHS is an equal opportunity provider and accepts applications regardless of age, gender, disability, religion, ethnic group or nationality. Men are welcome to apply and there are practising male midwives. The UK requires a diverse network of midwives to reflect the country's diverse population.
How do you train to become a midwife?
There are two routes to qualification as a midwife:
All courses are organised to give you both the theoretical background and hands-on practical experience with women and their families.
How do I choose between the diploma (DipHE) and the degree (BSc)?
Successful completion of either programme means you are a qualified Midwife and you will be officially registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). In addition you qualify with a degree or diploma. Diploma programmes require 60 credits of study at level three, whereas the degree programme requires 120 credits. This means the degree course is more intense, including additional modules in research and a dissertation. In choosing between the two programmes, candidates should consider their desired qualification outcome and their own academic strength. A diploma can be 'topped-up' to a degree at a later date with further study. For some institutions all candidates enter at diploma level and choose to switch to the degree after the first or possibly second year (see links given above). If you're interested in a future in research or teaching you should consider the degree.
What are the entry requirements?
The minimum entry qualifications for a diploma course is five GCSE (or equivalent) A-C grades, to include English Language, maths and one science subject. A number of other alternative qualifications are accepted and include:
Admission to the diploma route is made through the Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service. (See www.nmas.ac.uk ). You receive a Diploma and a Registered Midwife qualification.
The minimum requirement for degree courses is two A levels ((200 UCAS tariff points). Science is one of the preferred subjects. Application to the degree route is through UCAS. (See www.ucas.com). You will gain a degree and Registered Midwife qualification.
Entry requirements are broad and variable. To encourage applicants from a variety of backgrounds, institutions will consider alternative qualifications to those listed here. Experience and personal qualities count for much. Mature students should be able to demonstrate recent study. As each university has its own selection criteria, it can be useful to seek advice direct from a university admissions department or at an open day.
Contact individual institutions directly with queries on entry requirements-see 'Useful Links'.
Do courses vary between universities?
As far as programme content goes, there is little variation between institutions as professional registration has standard study requirements. Wherever you study you can expect to follow modules in:
However, there may be variation in methods of teaching and assessment between the institutions. Some institutions assess solely through assignments whilst others have examinations. Problem based learning has been adopted by some institutions and has a particular teaching and learning philosophy. For clinical practice, some programmes require you to experience working in 2 or 3 different hospitals, others send to you to just one for the duration of the course. View the universities' own websites for specific programme information.
As a student you can expect to spend 50% of your time at university and 50% on clinical placements. The first months will most likely be in the university. The course really is full-time and you will have to make up any missed clinical hours or teaching sessions. There are no exceptions as the university must comply with NMC guidelines. In the clinical setting - ward, delivery suite, community - you will have a mentor. You'll be expected to follow their shift pattern, which may well include nights, weekends, and on-call. Some placements are observational, others will be assessed by your mentor and a link lecturer. As the course progresses, you'll be expected to work with increasing independence. Other clinical placements may include: Special Care Baby Unit, Theatre, Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, Antenatal Day Assessment, but again this will vary with the institution. You may also have the opportunity to arrange an elective placement, where you can develop and further your own clinical interests.
So how do I choose which universities to apply to?
In choosing a university you need to think about the following questions:
Access university websites through the UCAS and NMAS web links to find out what you need to know about the courses and institutions. Talk to friends and family, talk to a Midwife. See what other people have to say about various universities and courses. Don't underestimate the financial burden of the course.
What is the application process?
Contact UCAS and/or NMAS for an application pack. They will process the first part of your application and send it to the institutions you have chosen. If you are successful at this first stage the individual institutions will call you to an interview/selection day. If you are successful at interview you would usually receive notification of acceptance after this stage. Offers may be conditional (on awaited exam results) or unconditional, though both are also dependent on a health and a police record check.
What experience can help my application?
There's a lot of competition for places on midwifery course. Many students have higher than the minimum requirements so it's worth getting some relevant experience. Some ideas include: involvement with the NCT (See links page), breastfeeding peer support, working as a nursing/health care assistant, work experience within a midwifery setting. All are relevant and demonstrate your commitment. Talk to a midwife about her job. Again open days can be a good source of local contacts.
These experiences will give you an insight into the role of a midwife. As part of your application, you'll be asked to write a personal statement. The institutions look at this closely when deciding who to invite for interview, so reflect carefully on relevant experiences and skills that can be applied to the role of the midwife. Do your research, it will pay off.
Links which may be of help: Apply 2 Uni - a personal statement information service.
What can I expect at interview?
Interview and selection days differ from institution to institution. They will almost certainly include an interview with a lecturer and a NHS midwife although increasingly institutions are moving towards participative group work. Communication skills are being assessed - listening, talking - and it is important to show you can work as part of a team. Don't dominate proceedings, but make sure you participate! Prepare yourself for the interview: re-read your personal statement, think about the role of the midwife, make sure you are aware of current midwifery news, (check out link pages for useful leads), reflect on how your life experiences can be applied to midwifery. Dress smartly, but be comfortable and try to relax. Easier said than done, I know. Oh, and smile.
What are the funding arrangements?
There are no course fees for either route as these are paid on your behalf by the NHS.
All diploma students receive a non-means tested bursary for the duration of the course (around £5,500 per year for those under 26, around £6,500 for those over 26 and additional allowances are available for those with dependents and for those studying in London). No contribution is required from students' or family income. Diploma students are not entitled to student loans.
Degree students receive a means-tested bursary and may apply for a student loan where they are not entitled to the full bursary. The income of the student, their parents or their spouse is taken into account when the level of bursary is being calculated. The grant is reduced in proportion to the assessed income. The basic rate of means testing benefits, including student loans is between £3500 and £5500. Students can access student loans, older students' dependents allowances and other benefits: council tax rebate.
If you are in receipt of a bursary with dependent children and using a registered childcare provider then you may be able to claim childcare allowances. For more information check www.nhsstudentgrants.co.uk Student midwives who are in receipt of a bursary, and are pregnant are now eligible for maternity payments.
A small number of student places are contracted by NHS Trusts. Pre-registration shortened courses are usually funded in this way. Students are paid a salary by the Trust and are offered a job on successful completion of their course.
Funding arrangements are an important consideration when considering midwifery education. Non-EU nationals may not be eligible for funding and may need a student visa to study. For further information on funding see www.nhs.uk/careers, or contact:
NHS Student Grants
In Northern Ireland:
Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)
Student Award Unit
Immigration and Nationality Directorate
What are the job and career prospects?
A newly qualified Midwife can expect a starting salary of around £18,500 per annum and could reach around £48,185 after five years of experience. The midwives pay and working conditions are determined by the new NHS pay system known as 'Agenda for Change'. Midwives can develop their career in a variety of ways; taking on increased responsibility as a supervisor or manager of a ward or unit, becoming a clinical specialist, a consultant midwife or perhaps moving into research or education. There are also many opportunities for working abroad. The majority of midwives work within the NHS though it is possible to work privately and independently.
Useful links for institutions offering the diploma and degree
Programmes for Pre-registration - New starters
Degree programme in Midwifery: 3 years
Programmes for Pre-registration
Degree programme in Midwifery: 4 years
Programmes for Pre-registration
Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in Midwifery: 3 years
N.B. For 78 week courses - post-registration - check out the above websites to see if a course is available. Courses are constantly being reviewed and updated so it's always wise to refer direct to institutions.