In September 2013, for the first time since 1957, there will be no midwifery training in Inverness. Those interested in undertaking midwifery education will be required to go to one of three remaining providers across Scotland.
Following a decision made by the Scottish Government in 2011, the number of midwifery students in Scotland was reduced from 180 to 100 per year and the number of University providers was halved from six to three. As a result, the provider for the North of Scotland (which includes the Highlands) is now Robert Gordon University based in Aberdeen (105 miles from Inverness). On 1st September 2013 the final cohort of 16 midwifery students complete their programme at the Highland Campus, after which there will no longer be undergraduate midwifery training in Inverness.
Wendy Jessiman (Lecturer in Midwifery Studies) and Irene Murray (Teaching Fellow Midwifery) at Stirling University provide an insight into the history of local midwifery training in the area.
Saying goodbye – by Wendy Jessiman and Irene Murray
Training of midwives in the Highlands of Scotland has been based in the city of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, for over 55 years. The duration of the midwifery programmes has varied over the years increasing from six to 18 months for registered nurses and one to three years for direct entry. During this time midwives have graduated with certificates, diplomas and, since 2008, a BSc Midwifery. Although frilly hats and uniforms have long since given way to more casual attire in the classroom, dolls, pelvises and fetal skulls have continued to feature alongside evidence-based care which has become increasing integral to the content and design of the curriculum.
The long history of local midwifery training has equipped many generations of midwives to provide midwifery care in this large geographical area, which is the size of Wales. From 1970, the Highland and Western Isles College of Nursing and Midwifery provided training for their NHS localities. Then, in 1996, Highland and Western Isles College of Nursing and Midwifery was incorporated into the University of Stirling, based across three campuses in Stirling, Inverness, and Stornoway in the Western Isles. The midwifery teaching team have prepared students for practice, regardless of the setting. Many of these former students are now practising across the world in Europe, Africa, New Zealand and Australia, as well as throughout the Highlands and the UK.
The students have benefited from the dedication and skills of the many mentors who have supported them over the years in a wide variety of remote and rural midwifery care settings, in addition to the consultant unit at Raigmore, Inverness. They have felt privileged to witness the additional challenges and accountability associated with lone working and decision making hundreds of miles from a hospital. The placements have extended from the most northerly District General Hospital on the Scottish mainland in Wick, to the picturesque setting of the Isle of Skye in the west and the unique midwife-led unit in Fort William. The integrated unit in Stornoway on the remote Western Isles has also provided invaluable experience. Many of the students’ placements and the students themselves are the subject of a recent series featured on BBC Alba, the Gaelic language channel available on BBC iPlayer.
A celebration of midwifery education in the Highlands is planned for the 30th August 2013 at the Highland Campus of the University of Stirling, Centre for Health Science, Inverness, adjacent to Raigmore hospital. All former students, mentors and contributors to the programme will be most welcome. This will be a wonderful opportunity to meet with old friends and colleagues, reminisce on experiences and all things midwifery. Details will be published at http://www.stir.ac.uk/campus-life/stirling,-highlands-and-western-isles/highland-campus/.