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From adult nurse to midwife

Pregnant woman talking to midwife

Many adult nurses have made a successful move into midwifery. If you’re a registered nurse considering a job change, here’s what to consider, the qualifications you need, and the career opportunities open to you as a qualified midwife.

Difference between the roles

Many midwives describe feeling privileged to welcome new life to the world, but the role involves much more than delivering babies. As a qualified midwife, you will provide antenatal and postnatal care, offering counselling, support and education to women and their families as they prepare for parenthood.

‘Having a baby is one of the most extraordinary experiences women and their partners may ever go through,’ says Carmel Bagness, Professional Lead for Midwifery and Women’s Health, Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

‘Becoming a midwife provides a real opportunity for you to engage with a woman, her partner and family during this life-changing event, and make a positive difference to their health and wellbeing. Though the role is hugely rewarding, it can sometimes be distressing, comes with a high level of responsibility and can be mentally and physically demanding.

‘As a qualified midwife, you will be the leader of care, and in some cases the primary co-ordinator of care, using decision-making skills on a daily basis for the vast majority of pregnant women you meet. You will also play a role in health promotion, as well as identifying potential complications and managing them with a wider team of healthcare professionals, working towards giving babies the best possible start in life. Working autonomously, you will decide when medical or social intervention or referral to other members of the healthcare team is necessary.’

Pre-registration midwifery short programme

The NHS funds places on pre-registration midwifery shortened programmes at universities across the UK, though the numbers have been reducing in recent times. These intensive courses generally run for 18-20 months and are split 50/50 between theory and supervised midwifery practice in community and hospital settings. A limited number of universities may offer the course on a part-time basis.

Theoretical learning will prepare you for every aspect of the midwife’s role. Key modules include anatomy and physiology/pathophysiology; cultural and psychosocial issues; inter-professional working, and legal and ethical issues.

The practical aspect of the course will give you hands-on clinical experience of midwifery practice in a hospital and local community setting. Under the supervision and mentorship of a qualified midwife, you will participate in providing individual care to pregnant women and their families.

Once graduated, you will be able to competently and confidently assess, plan, implement and evaluate effective midwifery care to a community of women, from early pregnancy, through labour and up to the 28th day following birth.

Entry requirements

To be accepted on the BSc Midwifery (shortened) degree, you need to be registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) as a general nurse (adult). Entry requirements vary and you will need to check these locally. Some universities may ask for evidence of 240 specific credits, 120 of which should be level 5 (diploma level) or equivalent, while others ask for 80 credit points at diploma level. Some require you to have some nursing experience immediately prior to commencing the course.

You may be required to undertake a numeracy and literacy test, even if you meet the maths and English GCSE application requirements (generally 5 GCSEs at Grade C or above, to include English language and maths). If successful, you will be invited to attend an interview. Competition for places is fierce and some universities have a more-involved selection process, for example you may have to provide a written critique of a known report and complete a table-top exercise to demonstrate team working and communication, in addition to attending an interview.

If successful at interview, you will be offered a place on the course subject to academic, occupational health and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) requirements.

For more information about the pre-registration midwifery shortened programmes, contact the Health Learning and Skills Advice Line and search for courses using the NHS coursefinder. The NMC also provide a list of approved programmes.

Getting onto a course and landing your first job

‘Education providers and employers value those who have some experience of working with women, problem solving and of making decisions quickly, using critical thinking skills,’ says Cathy Taylor, Careers Advisor at the RCN.

‘If you’re an adult nurse looking to become a midwife, it’s a good idea to explore the option of working in a women’s health area, such as gynaecology, urology or sexual health, though this is not essential.’

Cathy advises speaking with as many midwives and midwife managers as possible, so that you can demonstrate that you have researched the role, and know what it involves.

‘Try to organise some time work-shadowing midwives, by using contacts in your current place of employment if relevant, or by making local contacts.’

Career opportunities

Although most midwives are employed by the NHS and work in hospitals and the community, jobs are available in independent/private birth centres and hospitals, or you could work as a self-employed or independent midwife. British midwives are highly respected around the world, and you may find opportunities to travel and work abroad on qualification.

There are numerous opportunities to further your education and practice, for example you may decide to undertake a Masters or PhD, which could help you to specialise in certain areas of midwifery practice such as safeguarding, public health, mental health, bereavement, counselling or diabetes.

With experience, you could also seek promotion as a Head of Midwifery Services, Clinical Leader or consultant midwife or work in management. You may also choose to work as a research midwife or in higher education.

Interested in working as midwife? Search jobs on!

For up-to-date information on Uk nurse salaries, visit our recent 2016 Nursing Salary List 

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