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Interested in pursuing a career in midwifery? As a midwife, you’ll provide care to women throughout their pregnancy, labour, birth and during the postpartum period, as well as care for newborns through to six weeks of age.

Midwifery is an increasingly popular career path.

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There are now more than 3100 practising midwives and more than 31,200 practising nurses and midwives registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

To become a midwife, you must complete a program of study that has been approved by the National Board.

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While each university may offer a different program philosophy, the core content and clinical requirements remain the same, and are determined by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Committee (ANMAC).

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

One is to complete a three-year full-time Bachelor of Midwifery undergraduate program.

Many Bachelor of Midwifery direct-entry programs focus on evidence-based maternity care provided around a woman-centred model and feature both theoretical and practical components.

Programs are designed to equip graduates with the skills and knowledge to be able to work with women across the childbirth continuum.

They cover topics ranging from foundational anatomy and physiology to healthcare systems, life science, complex maternal and newborn care, Indigenous social and emotional well-being, normal birth, medication, pharmacology and screening.

As part of the practical components, students may also have the option of experiencing a variety of settings from antenatal clinics and wards to birthing units, postnatal wards, newborn nurseries and community health settings.

Some programs also promote continuity of care, otherwise known as caseload midwifery, where they enable students to follow the same women throughout their pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

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

The dual degree is designed to equip students with a broad range of skills across the disciplines of nursing and midwifery.

It enables graduates to work as both a nurse and midwife in a variety of practice settings.

The program can cover topics ranging from the principles of nursing care through to mental health, quality use of medicines in nursing, nursing management of both chronic illness and older people, labour and birth, and challenges in maternity care and infant care.

Registered nurses wanting to move into a midwifery career can also pursue a range of education pathways.

Nurses can complete a Bachelor of Midwifery, and can apply to receive some credit for recognition of prior learning, or complete a Graduate Diploma or Master degree in midwifery.

A Graduate Diploma in midwifery varies between universities and can range from one year to 18 months and up to two years.

Topics such as the woman during pregnancy, labour and birth, woman and the newborn infant, contexts of midwifery practice, and clinical challenges in maternity care and infant care are often featured in the program.

The Master of Midwifery enables midwives to advance the discipline of midwifery and promote excellence in midwifery practice.

Students can either choose a coursework or a research pathway through the Master, which can take between 1.5 to 2 years to complete.

In line with the Commonwealth’s reform of the national maternity agenda, new midwifery programs are also beginning to enter the market.

Several universities in Australia are offering postgraduate programs in prescribing for midwives.

The programs are designed to assist midwives seeking endorsement as prescribers and prepares them for practice as autonomous prescribers in the Australian health care system.

Pharmacology of specific drugs, clinical history, physical examination, use of clinical investigations to inform prescribing choices and communication skills for effective prescribing are some of the areas covered in the prescribing programs.

Dr Mary Sidebotham, an ANMAC assessor and active member of the Australian College of Midwives’, says with universities differing in their approach to programs it’s important that students research midwives, their roles and the various settings they work in.

“If people are choosing what education pathway to take they need to be purposed in their choice - what do I want this degree for, what job do I want to have at the end of it?

“If you want to be a midwife providing contemporary evidence-based midwifery services, the best pathway would be to do a three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Midwifery program,” she says.

“A Bachelor of Midwifery covers absolutely everything that would enable somebody to take the full care of a woman throughout the continuum of their childbirthing journey.”

Dr Sidebotham, a senior lecturer at Griffith University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, says universities also vary when it comes to program philosophy, support for students and the flexibility in the way their programs are delivered.

“Those are things that students should really question the faculty about,” she says.

“They should ring up the program director and say - what are your program values, how will you support me as a student, how will you enable me to meet the theoretical and clinical requirements to become a midwife in your program?

“Don’t just look at what the glossy brochures say,” she advises.

“Go to the open days, talk to the staff, try and talk to students who are already in the program, find out what the core values are of the program, find out whether this is the program that will enable you to be the midwife you want to be.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords