If you are wondering how to become a midwife, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers within the medical and nursing profession, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Midwives care for and support pregnant women, their partners and babies, before, during and after the birth. Some midwives give advice before a baby is conceived, but most will support the mother after pregnancy has been confirmed.
    The work of a midwife includes:

    monitoring the health of the mother and baby with physical examinations and ultrasound scanners
    counselling the expectant mother on issues such as healthy eating or giving up smoking
    explaining the mother’s options for the birth, for example natural childbirth, pain controlling drugs, hospital or home delivery
    looking after the mother and baby during labour and birth, and for around one month after the birth.
    Midwives will often run antenatal and parenting classes which involves teaching expectant and new parents the essential skills needed to care for their baby. Midwives will also advise new mothers on breast feeding.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good midwives include:

    be able to relate well to people of all ages and backgrounds
    be able to build up trust with women and their families
    be able to help mothers feel confident and in control
    have effective communication skills
    have a genuine desire to help people
    enjoy working in a team but also on your own initiative
    have maturity, compassion and sensitivity
    be able to remain calm under pressure
    be able to explain processes to people who have no medical knowledge
    respect the mother’s wishes about how and where to have her baby unless it is dangerous to do so.

    How to become a midwife
    To qualify as a registered midwife, you need to achieve one of the following:
    a Diploma of Higher Education in Midwifery*
    a Degree in Midwifery
    a Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing (adult branch) followed by a 78 week midwifery conversion course.
    To get onto an approved course you need to meet some general requirements set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). These include:

    providing evidence of your literacy and numeracy, good health and good character, and recent successful study experience
    meeting the minimum age requirement for training — 17.5 years old in England, 17 in Scotland, and 18 in Northern Ireland and Wales
    agreeing to undergo a criminal records bureau check; however, a criminal conviction does not automatically exclude you from working in the NHS.
    Course providers can set their own academic entry requirements, which can include:

    midwifery diploma or degree — five GCSEs (A-C) in English and maths/science, plus two A levels/H grades possibly including biology or human biology
    nursing diploma — five GCSEs (A-C) preferably in English, maths or a science-based subject.
    If you do not meet the course entry requirements listed please check with universities because alternatives, such as an Access to Higher Education course, may be accepted.

    To qualify as a midwife via a 78 week conversion course, you need to be a registered nurse in the adult branch. Additional entry requirements can vary between course providers, however, you are likely to need:

    between one and two years’ experience as a qualified nurse
    evidence of recent study
    relevant experience, for example working in an acute clinical area
    the support of your existing employer.
    You should apply for a nursing or midwifery course (diploma or degree) through UCAS, in Further Information. The Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service (NMAS) is no longer processing diploma course applications.

    * Midwifery education review
    If you wish to start training to be a midwife on or after September 2008, you will need to complete a Degree in Midwifery. The Diploma in Midwifery is being phased out. The final intake of diploma students will take place during Autumn 2007 and Spring 2008.

    Alternative entry routes:
    If you are 16-19 years old you can prepare for a career in nursing or midwifery by doing a two-year Cadet Scheme. This includes a range of clinical placements and working towards a qualification such as an NVQ Level 3 in Health, or Health and Social Care. Check with your local hospital trust or NHS Careers (in Further Information) for entry and recruitment details.

    If you work in a caring role, perhaps as a healthcare assistant or support worker, you may be able to study for a relevant NVQ at level 3; this will usually satisfy the entry requirements for a midwifery or nursing diploma. Check the Healthcare Assistant job profile for details.

    As a midwife who trained, qualified and registered overseas, you may need to complete a midwifery adaptation programme in order to meet the midwives part of the NMC register.

    Training and Development
    As a trainee midwife on an approved course, you will divide your time between university and supervised work placements including antenatal wards and clinics, delivery units, postnatal wards and the community.

    You will be trained in areas such as:

    midwifery practice
    care of the newborn
    management of labour
    communication skills
    health education
    health promotion.
    Nursing and midwifery diploma and degree courses attract a non-repayable bursary to cover living expenses. Bursaries for a diploma are non-means tested; bursaries for the degree are means-tested. Course fees are also usually paid. Check the NHS Careers website in Further Information for details.

    As a qualified midwife you need to renew your professional registration with the NMC every three years. To re-register you must complete a minimum of five days (35 hours) relevant learning within the previous three year period. Anything that has helped you maintain or develop your role within midwifery can count towards this requirement. Check the NMC website for details, including additional criteria and advice.

    As a midwife it is essential you continue to develop in your role. There are many opportunities for further training in areas such as family planning, teaching and research.

    If you are a registered midwife wishing to return to the profession after a career break, you can take a return-to-practice course. Courses are available throughout the UK and include a mixture of theory and practice.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Newly qualified midwives working within the NHS can earn between £19,200 and £24,800 year.
    Senior midwives can earn around £31,000 a year.
    Midwife consultants can earn up to £61,000.

    Job Prospects
    The NHS is the largest employer of midwives, but there are some opportunities in private hospitals and clinics. Some midwives are self-employed and practise independently in accordance with NMC guidelines.
    As a qualified and experienced midwife you may have the opportunity to progress to ward manager or team leader, responsible for efficiently running a ward or team of midwives in the community. There may also be promotion opportunities to the role of director of midwifery, or midwifery consultant.

    Midwife consultants spend half their time working directly and independently with patients, and the remainder carrying out research into their area of expertise. They will also be involved in creating and delivering training. Consultants need at least a Masters degree, which reflects the fact they are working at the top of the profession.

    As a midwife you will find work opportunities overseas, especially in developing countries.

    Useful medicine and nursing resources:
    Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)
    23 Portland Place
    W1B 1PZ
    Tel: 020 7637 7181
    Registration contacts
    Overseas: 020 7333 6600
    General: 020 7333 9333

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