Developing and inspiring the midwives of the future

There aren’t many careers more rewarding and important than midwifery. As defined by UCAS: “It’s the professional care of women – before, during, and after the birth of their child. Midwifery has been an honoured and important profession for thousands of years.”  

However, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has warned of a “midwife exodus as the midwifery staffing crisis grows.” Over half of midwives surveyed by the RCM said they were considering leaving their job as a midwife, with 57% saying they would leave the NHS in the next year. This is extremely concerning at a time when the NHS is already struggling to cope with demand. Possible reasons for wanting to leave the profession range from the pressures of the job, underfunding and changes to working hours - possibly to cover staff shortages - resulting in burn out. Midwives do all they can to care for women but ultimately could be blamed for anything that may go wrong. Quality of care could be affected when they are constantly working under these pressures and some midwives just can’t deal with the burden bestowed upon them.  

Being a midwife is both challenging and satisfying, but, as with other health professions, has been profoundly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which has undoubtedly contributed to the staffing shortage. Midwives had to adapt quickly as babies were still being born throughout the pandemic, and during this time they had to provide additional support with a reduction in how many people were allowed into hospital to support the mother, highlighting the significant role midwives play in society 

Baby mannekin

Popular career choice 

Despite all these challenges Midwifery is still a much sought-after career. And as older midwives retire student midwives are in high demand and valued by the NHS. The University of Derby recently launched its BSc (Hons) Midwifery degree, welcoming its first cohort of student midwives in September 2021 and has plans to grow this area of study by launching an MSc Midwifery degree commencing early 2023. 

Navjot Kaur Virk, Head of Discipline-Midwifery, Children and Professional Practice at the University of Derby, comments: “There is a national and global shortage of midwives, and we are excited to play our part in developing and educating midwives for the future. We started our first cohort of Midwifery last year and had an overwhelming response from national, regional and local leaders, educationists and midwives. We are committed to providing quality education to our students so that they can embark on their demanding career with competence and confidence to provide the best birthing experience to women."  

Professor Geraldine Walters, Executive Director of Professional Practice at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said: “Our data shows there are more midwives on our register than ever. But we’ve also seen an annual rise in the number of midwives leaving our register, so a focus on retention needs to be part of a sustainable workforce plan to meet rising demands for health and care services. In terms of recruitment, there’s been a surge in interest in midwifery and nursing courses during the pandemic, as people were inspired by our professions. We need to capture that inspiration, and promote midwifery as a rewarding career path full of professional development opportunities. The more universities that can help make this a reality for people, the better. That’s why we’re pleased the next generation of midwives now have the option of applying to study at Derby.”

Midwifery is an extremely competitive programme, and it is estimated that there are only 100 places for every 1,000 applications. The issue therefore isn’t attracting new student midwives into university training but retaining them in the profession. The RCM found that midwives who had worked for five years or less were the most dissatisfied, so it’s hoped that the University’s growing student midwife community can help change these statistics as they prepare for their careers.   

Academic with two students using the birthing pool to role play labour

The midwives' role has become more complex with increasing morbidity in the childbearing population, such as BMI, medical conditions and perinatal mental health. Student midwives are equipped to be able to provide additional care needs for mothers and babies.

Jayne Leverton
Lead Midwife for Education at the University of Derby

The future of midwifery

As a student midwife you are often described as the ‘future of midwifery’, so naturally it does pose the question of what that future may look like? The role of midwives often involves working with mothers as they are trying to conceive, throughout their pregnancy, and into the postnatal period, after birth, but the role has expanded. Annabelle Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, explains: “Midwives have taken on procedures that used to be performed by Doctors, such as ventouse deliveries and Neonatal examinations." 

First year Midwifery student Kayty Richards is driven by her passion to care for women and their families: “Getting a place on a midwifery degree is not a small feat, we worked hard to get our place and our passion is not only what got us here but is what keeps us going. I pursued a career in midwifery to be able to support women and families and to encourage and empower them to find their voice and strength, not only through their pregnancy and birth, but in their new roles as parents.  

“I am passionate about the importance of educating midwives with trauma informed care, use of language and active listening. Our actions, words and body language are seen and felt; open, compassionate, and effective communication is powerful and can make a significant difference to the experience of the birthing person and their partner. The challenges of the profession are very much at the forefront of our mind, we take in every word and use that to help shape us and the midwife we will become.”  

Midwifery student holding baby doll

Midwifery is a career of oxytocin-induced highs and difficult lows, we feel them all deeply and we feel truly honoured to get to stand beside each and every family we support.

Kayty Richards
BSc (Hons) Midwifery student at the University of Derby

Providing students with a wide range of learning opportunities 

Midwives assess, plan, provide, and evaluate care on an ongoing basis and in partnership with women – and their partners if appropriate – collaborating with other health and social care professionals as needed. The University of Derby’s programme provides students with a wide range of learning opportunities focused upon developing emotionally resilient registered midwives of the future. In line with the Standards of Proficiency for Midwives (NMC, 2019), the programme develops students to become midwives who are accountable for their actions, can work autonomously, and who can provide safe and effective care. 

Students will experience a wide variety of practice learning environments including maternity wards, neonatal units, and community midwifery teams. While on placement, students prepare for the real world of midwifery through experience of a full range of shift patterns relevant to the practice environment they are placed in.  

Dr Jan Royal-Fearn, Lead for Practice Learning at the University, is pleased with how the programme is progressing: “As placement lead it has been exciting to see the BSc (Hons) Midwifery programme start and to establish positive placements with our local trusts which has enabled our students to experience midwifery services in hospitals and community settings. The staff in placement have fed back how well our students are doing which is brilliant to hear.”  

While a career in midwifery will not be for everyone, there is no doubt that those who do choose to embark on one will be making a significant contribution to the success of this crucial and rewarding profession.  

Written by Claire Grabowski

A Midwifery student using a bump mannekin

Midwifery at the University of Derby

Gain the practical skills you'll need with a degree that meets the standards and competencies set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

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