Midwife

The Job and What's Involved

Midwives care for mothers and their babies during pregnancy, birth and while the baby is still very young. They are actively engaged in promoting health and wider issues around public health. They also play an important part in advising and supporting partners and other family members, making sure that everyone is prepared for the arrival of the new baby.

A midwife's duties include:

  • Carrying out examinations and assessments to monitor the health of mother and baby.
  • Giving the mother information about her options - including where and how to have the baby, methods of pain relief - and helping her to make informed decisions.
  • Advising and motivating the mother to make healthy lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, adopting a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol and medication.
  • Using antenatal classes to teach groups of parents about the process of birth and pain control techniques.
  • Through parenting classes, teaching the skills needed to care for young babies, such as bathing, changing and feeding.
  • Looking after the mother and baby during labour and birth.
  • Referring women to other medical professionals on the rare occasions when something goes wrong.
  • Supporting and caring for the mother and baby for at least ten days after the birth.
  • Helping mothers with breastfeeding.
  • Occasionally giving couples advice on conception.

All midwives have a named 'Supervisor of Midwives' to help them to update their skills and knowledge and make sure their methods are safe. They also work closely with other professionals including hospital doctors, general practitioners (GPs), health visitors, nurses and social workers.

Midwives in the NHS work 37.5 hours a week. This can include shifts, rotas and on-call duties to give cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as babies can be born at any time. Part-time work and flexible hours are often available.

Midwives may be based in hospital maternity units or in the community in GP surgeries, health centres and clinics. They may spend time travelling from their base to patients' homes, so a driving licence is useful. The majority of babies are born in hospital, but some are born at home, where working conditions can vary.

The starting salary for a newly-qualified midwife in the National Health Service (NHS) is £19,166 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 43,000 midwives practising throughout the UK. Work locations range from inner city hospitals to community health services in rural areas. Most midwives are employed by the NHS, but there are also opportunities with private healthcare companies and in the Armed Forces. There may be opportunities to become self-employed.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on the jobs bulletins and websites of NHS trusts and charities, in specialist magazines like RCM Midwives Journal, British Journal of Midwifery and The Practising Midwife, and at
www.jobs.nhs.uk.

Education and Training

To become a midwife, candidates must have either a diploma or a degree in midwifery.

The minimum qualifications to gain a place on a diploma course are usually five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent, including English, maths and one science subject.

To gain a place on a degree course, candidates need at least two A levels/three H grades or equivalent qualifications, preferably including a science subject.

Entry to courses is very competitive and different educational institutions have specific criteria. Candidates are advised to check with individual institutions.

All candidates must pass a medical examination and Criminal Records Bureau/Disclosure Scotland check.

When they complete the course, midwives must register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council before being allowed to practice.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Diploma and degree courses last either three or four years full time and combine theoretical background with hands-on practical experience. Longer, part-time courses are available at some universities for staff employed in support roles.

Modules studied include biological sciences, applied sociology and psychology, and professional practice.

To remain on the Nursing and Midwifery Council's register, midwives must notify their intention to practice each year and undergo Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. The Royal College of Midwives offers a CPD programme.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A midwife should:

  • Be intuitive, caring and kind and be able to build relationships of trust with women and their families.
  • Be able to help mothers to feel confident and in control.
  • Be objective, non-judgemental and able to deal professionally with the needs of women from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures.
  • Have excellent communication skills to explain medical issues to people with no specialist knowledge.
  • Stay calm and alert under pressure.
  • Work well alone and be able to make decisions.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Have physical and mental stamina.
  • Be able to keep accurate records.
  • Know when to call in extra help.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are many different ways in which midwives can develop their careers. They may choose to specialise in fields such as ultrasound, care of the foetus, premature baby care, parenting education or public health. They could aim for consultant midwife roles or move into management as head of a midwifery service.

There are also opportunities in teaching and research, or to work overseas in the European Community or with charitable organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas. Some experienced midwives become self-employed.

Get Further Information

NHS England: NHS Careers. PO Box 2311,
Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Scotland: Careers and
Opportunities in the NHS Scotland
Tel: 0845 601 4647
Website: www.nhscareers.scot.nhs.uk

NHS Wales:
Website: www.wales.nhs.uk

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7637 7181
Website: www.nmc-uk.org

The Royal College of Midwives,
15 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NH
Tel: 020 7312 3535
Website: www.rcm.org.uk

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