Since September 2008, the course available that leads to a qualification as a Registered Midwife (RM) is a degree course undertaken at a university. The title given to this is usually a pre-registration midwifery programme, which comprises integrated study of theory and supervised midwifery practice.
On successful completion, students are awarded both an academic (Bsc (Hons)) and a professional qualification (RM). Therefore, the student must be successful in both their academic and clinical work assessments in order to complete their degree and qualify as a midwife.
All midwifery degree programmes should be at least three years in length and each year should have 45 programmed weeks (NMC 2009b). Annual leave is often linked to periods of study as well as being divided between Christmas, Easter and the summer breaks. Supervised midwifery practice makes up at least 50% of the programme and takes place in both community and hospital settings.
Theoretical study and clinical experience cover all aspects of antenatal, labour, postnatal and neonatal care. This initially focuses on the care of women and their babies who have ‘normal’ uncomplicated pregnancies and births. The course content then progresses towards the needs of women and babies who have ‘complicated’ pregnancies and births, which require a more intensive approach to care often provided by a multidisciplinary team.
For the final year, there is usually a return to the care of women with normal pregnancies in order to consolidate the knowledge and experience gained. The overall aim remains, however, to provide individualized care that involves women in the decisions being made and integrates a holistic perspective.
As part of the requirement to experience a range of clinical care, you will be given ‘clinical placements’ which could be over quite a wide geographical area. It is very important that you know where you could be located and whether you have any choice in this, especially if you have family commitments or transport constraints. Once you have been accepted for, or have started the course, it is very difficult to change these placements.
Clinical midwifery experience will include practice placements on neonatal care units and some universities will also offer clinical experience on a general hospital ward; this tends to be in gynaecology (diseases/conditions affecting the female genital tract) and offers the opportunity for midwifery students to observe medical and surgical approaches to the care of women with gynaecological conditions, some of which have arisen as a result of pregnancy and childbirth (European Parliament and the Council of the European Union 2005).
The nature of woman-centred care means that an essential part of a student’s clinical learning is that they experience the full cycle of ‘round the clock care’. This involves undertaking shift work and duty rotas that include weekends and night duty. The student’s work pattern will often be linked to the shift patterns of one or two registered midwives working in the same clinical area, whether this is hospital or community-based, or across both (‘integrated care’). These midwives are allocated the responsibility of ensuring that the educational objectives of each student’s clinical placement, including the completion of relevant clinical assessments are met. The midwives who undertake this role are called ‘sign off’ mentors and are given additional training before they fulfil this responsibility.
Wherever possible, the clinical area will try to ensure that you work with the same midwife/midwives during your placement, so there is continuity in the support you receive and in the assessment of your progress. Another route into midwifery is through a programme called the Pre-registration Midwifery short programme (formerly the post-registration 18 months course). This is for registered nurses who wish to undertake an additional programme of education and gain a second professional registration. The course comprises a minimum of 78 weeks full-time education.
Click the links below for general information on midwifery, applying for courses and more.