Most people applying for midwifery have wanted to be midwives since they were little, I however stumbled on the idea from a family pregnancy 4 years ago. As I didn’t have the correct qualifications to apply to university, I needed to complete a year long health specific access course for people wishing to apply for health related professions (midwife, nurse, paramedic etc). However, during an open day at the college I was discouraged from applying for midwifery as ‘it’s a hard course to get into as lots of people apply’, but undeterred from this I applied and completed the course with straight distinctions.
Gaining relevant experience
On discussion with the University of Southampton (where I studied) they specifically required some form of health related work experience before they would consider me as a candidate. I volunteered at Princess Anne once a week for 6 months and saw the daily running of a postnatal/antenatal ward, which gave me good insight into what really goes on ‘behind the scenes’.
I would definitely recommend some form of maternity work experience as some people on my course were shocked when they started placement. It would give you a good idea to see if you like that kind of fast paced environment or not. I also got to be present at 2 family/friends births, which again gave me a great understanding of maternity services and confirmed my strong stomach!
Writing your personal statement
The next step is writing your personal statement. This is an incredibly important aspect of the application process, so don’t leave it until the last minute. I was very truthful in mine, telling them the struggles I have overcome to allow me to get to this point in my life. So just be honest, show your enthusiasm and dedication to this profession.
I was lucky enough to get an interview at both Southampton and Bournemouth University. They asked for different things, such as to write an essay on a given topic, a maths test, group interview and individual interview, so it’s a pretty full on day. Make sure you do some research on the latest midwifery news, read a few online articles so you can recite some facts, have a general understanding of maternity services just so you can be prepared for their questions. They are usually very good and make you feel at ease so just relax!
The degree course
Skipping ahead to the course…… I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough 3 years, but broken down into sections, taking things one step at a time, managing your time properly and most of all (my favourite) forward planning will see you sail through the course! Unfortunately it’s not like other university degrees, you can’t go out partying all the time, you have to be on placement half of the time so evenings and weekends are taken up, but it’s all worth it! The course itself is broken up by 50% practical placements and 50% theory (Monday-Friday 9-5), these are done in chunks so you aren’t on placement and have uni at the same time which is so much better as you can dedicate your time to each thing at one time. We had to do a mixture of drug calculation tests, essays, exams and the dreaded dissertation (which looking back actually wasn’t that bad).
Although we got a bursary from the NHS, some people had to get jobs to be able to afford small luxuries such as food and rent! NHSP (NHS Professionals- offering ‘bank’ shifts) at the General hospital has proven to be a very good source of income as you can choose when you work and also it pays very well, so something to look into if you need extra cash. However, it’s all about the work life balance so remember to have some downtime too!
During our 2nd year, we got the opportunity to do an elective placement to a destination of our choosing (self funded). My 2 friends and I chose Miami, where we spent 2 weeks at a midwifery led birth center then in hospital with a ‘nurse-midwife’. All I can say is that it gave me a new found appreciation of the NHS! It was very interesting to see how pregnancy and birth are treated so different out there. Birth in the hospital is treated as a very clinical event where 97% of women have epidurals so the obstetrician can get there in time to deliver the baby. It’s all very sterile.
Working in a birth centre
The birth center however is completely the opposite; you have to be low risk in every aspect of the word to go there, including a non-smoker who is going to breastfeed. They were very relaxed, almost too relaxed in some cases. Midwifery in the UK has proven to be, in my opinion, the best of both worlds where midwives are autonomous practitioners who work in partnership with doctors to care for women on their own terms. That’s the most important thing to remember is we are here to facilitate a positive birth experience for women and their families, putting our own beliefs aside to create a safe and comfortable environment.
Although these 3 years have been so mentally and physically challenging, I couldn’t think of doing anything else. Good luck!