Skills and traits needed to make a good midwife

October 22, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Hazel with one of newborns in TanzaniaA midwife provides care to women throughout the course of their pregnancy and during the birth of their baby. In addition to having the required education and training, it is helpful to have certain skills and traits to excel in the field.

Be a people person

One of the most important skills a midwife needs is good people skills. Sometimes, traits such as leadership and assertiveness, seem to be emphasized in the workplace. But interpersonal skills are an important part of being successful.

Good people skills may mean different things to different people. But in general, having strong interpersonal skills means being able to work well with many types of people. It also means having the ability to interact and communicate with people in different situations.

Midwives deal with patients, family members and other medical professionals. Being able to work effectively with people at different levels in different capacities is an essential part of the job. While you do not have to love everyone you meet, you must be non-judgmental, so you can provide appropriate care in a professional manner.

Good listening skills are essential

Another important skill to have is good listening skills. Most people realize good communication skills are needed for medical professionals including midwives. But the part of communication that sometimes takes a back seat is listening. Being able to listen to your patients helps you have a better understanding of their needs and also helps build rapport.

Be a problem solver

It is also helpful to have good problem-solving skills. Working as a midwife, you encounter different situations and problems. Some situations require a straightforward solution. But there are other times you may need to think outside the box. Problem-solving skills require you to use your clinical knowledge and examine the situation objectively.

In addition to problem-solving skills, you need to have good judgment. Labor and delivery does not always go as it should. In some circumstances, there may not be a definitive treatment or intervention. If you work as a midwife, some situations will require you to make a judgment call.

Good judgment also means knowing when to seek help. For instance, you may be attending a delivery, and problems start to develop. You may need the assistance of other medical professionals before further complications develop. In other cases, you may be at a home birth and feel it is necessary to transport the patient to the hospital due to unforeseen complications. Good judgment includes seeking additional assistance or referring a patient to other healthcare providers as needed.

Midwives have to maintain a balance of empathy and objectivity, and they have to know when to show both. Some situations call for an empathic voice while other times it is important to simply state the facts.

Patients want to know they are being cared for by a midwife with compassion and empathy. But you cannot allow either to get in the way of providing the care that is needed. There are instances, where patients need to hear it straight. Sugar-coating a situation is not in the patient’s best interest, but being honest always is. Good midwives know how to be straightforward in a compassionate manner.

The ability to teach is important

If you plan to become a midwife, you should also enjoy educating patients. Pregnant women and their partners may need education on ways to stay healthy during pregnancy, complications to be aware of and nutritional recommendations. Women may also need information on options for pain relief during labor and on topics, such as breastfeeding and baby care.

Although some topics may be easy to teach, there will be other times when medical information is complex. A midwife should be able to take complicated medical information and explain it at a level patients can understand.

It is also helpful to be able to multitask. You may need to handle several things at once, including monitoring a women’s contractions, the baby’s heart rate and explaining things all at the same time. The ability to focus on several things simultaneously is a very useful skill to have. In addition, if you are running your own practice, you will be juggling patient care with private practice responsibilities, such as hiring staff, billing and marketing. Multitasking is essential.

Stay calm and carry on

Similar to other healthcare professionals, midwives need to work well under pressure. Births don’t always go as anticipated. Circumstances change and emergencies develop. Midwives need to stay clam to perform optimally. They also have to have the ability to calm the patient. Women who are giving birth need to focus during the delivery so they can push effectively. Staying level-headed and keeping your patients relaxed is critical for midwives.

With all the responsibilities a midwife has, they need to be confident in their abilities. Many midwives work independently. Depending on where you work, you may not have other co-workers to bounce things off. For example, if you are attending a home birth, you may be the only medical professional present. You may be the only one there to resuscitate the baby if needed or make the call to transport the patient to the emergency room. Midwives need to trust their ability. If you have confidence in yourself, it helps your patients trust you.

Midwives also need to be flexible. If your patient has a birth plan and things change in the middle of the delivery, you may have to go with the flow. Good midwives understand they cannot control every situation, but they can adapt and adjust as needed in order to have a safe delivery.

It is also helpful to have patience. There may be times when you need to explain something more than once. Your patients may have a lot of questions. Keep in mind, as a midwife, pregnancy and delivery may be routine for you. But for the women you are caring for, it may be their first time having a baby. Having patience and taking the time needed with each patient helps ease fears.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.