I’m passionate about birth and have been for over 25 years as a midwife, assisting over 1000 women birth both at home and in hospitals (and in various other precarious places as well!). I’m practicing as a private midwife in Australia and have done since 2009 before all the policies and rules were written about our practice. I practiced for over 10 years as an Independent midwife in New Zealand, joining as a newly registered midwife the wonderful group of midwives who had taken a very important role in training me to become an autonomous midwife both within the hospital system and as a home birthing midwife.

Part of our role as a registered midwife was to train with students and mentor them into continuity of care when they registered, which is not available to newly registered midwives in Australia. In fact, very few student midwives train in continuity of care and attend home births in Australia.

The student working with me in my practice began her training nearly two years ago in a class of 50. Already 20 have dropped out and only 5 student midwives have experience in a private practice! How is a broken micromanaged medical maternity system going to prepare these student midwives for autonomous practice? What kind of midwife will they become when their clinical education is not truly encompassing the full scope of their practice?

One of the easiest ways for a student to frame this question is to ask, “What kind of midwife would I want at my birth?” And then, “Is my educational program preparing me to be this kind of midwife?” Often, the answer to the latter question is either “no” or a very conditional “yes.” Perhaps this is because, in the course of mainstreaming our profession in (Australia) we have found it necessary to develop an infrastructure to support our work—certification, accreditation, legal advocacy, legislative strategy and public education. All of these require a certain interface with the powers that be, which have presented a series of legitimacy hoops we’ve had to jump through to gain credibility. But, in the process, the focus has shifted from what a midwife is to what she knows.

And, as I always tell my students, almost anyone can master the knowledge and technical skills necessary to practice, but the personal growth and experience aspect—now that’s the hard part!

A very interesting article to continue reading about midwifery student education and autonomous practice can be found via https://midwiferytoday.com/mt-articles/midwifery-education-the-time-is-now/  

Are you a student midwife wishing to be mentored and supported during your practical placement beyond your studies? I am looking to start mentoring and bring a group of like minded student midwives together. If this sounds like something that you’d be interested in, please register below.