Is a career in midwifery the right choice for you?

March 21, 2016


The primary role of a midwife is to help prepare pregnant women for childbirth and motherhood. The role is all-encompassing and involves providing care for pregnant and birthing women from their pre-conceptual stage right through the ante-natal and postnatal periods. As a midwife, your responsibilities would range from educating and supporting your clients through the entire pregnancy to monitoring the baby and the mother during the entire term ensuring their medical well-being and comfort, offering family planning advice and assisting with any other pregnancy-related health issues.

A midwife’s presence is crucial throughout all the stages of pregnancy, during labour and well into the early post-natal period. Midwifery is a highly demanding and challenging specialty, but the satisfaction it offers is incomparable.

Education and training

There are two main pathways to becoming a midwife in Australia:

Bachelor of Midwifery – Full time, three years

The first option is to complete a three-year full-time Bachelor of Midwifery undergraduate programme that has been approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

A Bachelor of Midwifery programme will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to be able to work with women at all stages of pregnancy and childbirth. You will study topics ranging from anatomy and physiology to life-science, medication, healthcare systems, normal birth, advanced maternal and newborn care, wellbeing, and pharmacology.

As part of the practical components, students also acquire clinical experience across a variety of settings from antenatal clinics and wards to birthing units, newborn nurseries, postnatal wards and community health settings.

Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery – Combined degree, four years

The second path to becoming a midwife is to complete a combined four-year Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery.

This dual degree is designed to equip students with a broad range of skills across the disciplines of nursing as well as midwifery. It enables graduates to work both as a nurse and midwife in a variety of healthcare settings. These programs cover topics ranging from the principles of nursing care through to mental health, labour and birth and challenges in maternity care and infant care.

Career development

Once you are a fully qualified midwife and after having gained some experience in the field, you will find that plenty of opportunity for further career development. You can choose to specialise in certain areas of midwifery such as ante-natal screening, ultrasound and foetal medicine, postnatal care or home birthing.

With further experience, you can even consider becoming a consultant midwife or midwife educator at a university where you can mentor and train future generations of midwives. There are even higher management opportunities such as Midwife Supervisor or Head of Midwifery Services in larger healthcare establishments.

Understanding the realities

If you’re looking for a job that’s personally and professionally rewarding and where every day brings a new challenge, you may want to consider a career as a midwife. It gives you the opportunity to spend time with women and their families during one of the most exciting periods of their life and to witness the miracle of new life. However, it’s not all easy going or smooth sailing. It is important to understand the realities of this specialty before you decide to pursue this career path.

The first thing you need to know and accept is that shift work will become a way of life. It is unavoidable since the pregnant mum-to-be that you are working with could go into labour at any time, and it’s your responsibility to be there to help and guide her through the birthing process. Very often you will also be on call throughout the day and night.

As a midwife, you need to have a lot of patience, and really care about your patients and their welfare. Pregnancy brings along with it several situations that need to be dealt with tactfully and patiently. If your patient is in great distress, you have to have the patience and tact to offer advice and comfort at any time of the day or night.

While dispensing advice, carrying out routine blood pressure checks or doing home visits are some of the things you’ll do on a daily basis, being a midwife is much more than that. This is not a career for the squeamish or weak of heart: giving birth can be a traumatic and messy process involving blood and vomit. Sometimes complications may arise, and you have to be prepared for any eventuality.

Being a midwife can be physically demanding as you will be on your feet for extended periods of time. And although it can be very rewarding, it can be emotionally challenging as well. Newborns may be in considerable distress or even die during or immediately after childbirth and you will have to deal with that as well as the new mother’s emotions.

Do you have what it takes?

The clinical component of all midwifery courses includes practical sessions that involve observing women giving birth. This can help you determined if this is really the right field for you. If you find that you cannot handle the birthing process, there is still time to opt out of the midwifery course and switch specialties.

However, if you would like to find out even before you start your nursing or midwifery course, doing a shadowing placement is an excellent way to get valuable experience in this field. At all of these placements, you will get the opportunity to work alongside qualified and experienced midwives, and you will come away with a much better idea of whether or not this is the right specialty for you.

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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.