> Where to Start... Becoming a Midwife
Since 1990 the educational preparation of midwives has recognised their autonomous role and since 1992 pre-registration midwifery education has been through a three-year Bachelor of Midwifery programme. Development of these midwifery curricula was collaborative between the consumers, the profession (represented by the New Zealand College of Midwives) and the educational institutions.
There are four pre-registration midwifery programmes in New Zealand. These are offered by Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, Ara Institute of Canterbury (ARA) in Christchurch, Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in Auckland. Several schools have satellite programmes such as Otago with a programme in Invercargill and AUT with student cohorts in various sites in the upper North Island.
Three-year bachelors degree framework
Each midwifery school offers an extended three year bachelor degree programme meaning that each year has a minimum of 45 programmed weeks rather than the more usual 36 programmed weeks. All students whether full time or part time must complete the programme within four years of commencement. This is the framework for all routes to midwifery registration. Each programme has a Recognition of Prior Learning Policy that enables those with appropriate previous qualifications and experience to receive credits or partial exemptions for aspects of the programme. Midwifery students who hold a previous nursing registration or those with other degrees or other relevant experience are likely to gain credit under these policies and complete a shorter programme. Registered nurses will usually complete at least two years of the full programme.
Each midwifery programme has a slightly different curriculum but all must meet the requirements and standards laid down by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand. The Midwifery Council of New Zealand is the regulatory body for midwifery and is responsible for registering midwives. The competencies for registration as a midwife in New Zealand can be found on the Midwifery Council website.
Once the midwifery student has successfully completed the programme (all of which require Midwifery Council approval) they are put forward to be registered. It is the responsibility of the midwifery programme to ensure that all students who are put forward have met the Midwifery Council of New Zealand Standards for Registration as a Midwife. In addition the programme must declare that each student is ‘fit and proper’ to be a midwife. The Midwifery Council then requires students to sit the National examination and if this is passed the student will be registered as a midwife.
Content of midwifery programmes
All midwifery programmes have a focus on continuity of care and autonomous practice. All students must demonstrate competency in basic midwifery skills such as antenatal care, labour care, conducting normal birth, venepuncture, cannulation, perineal repair, infant resuscitation, newborn examination, postnatal care and breastfeeding.
The Bachelor of Midwifery degree has a significant bioscience component and strong research focus. The notion of evidence-based care underpins all teaching. This provides students with the necessary scientific and research base for autonomous decision-making.
Over three years all teaching is focused on providing students with the knowledge and skills necessary for safe midwifery practice. All material focuses on pregnancy and childbirth. For instance, all students cover material relating to underlying/pre-existing medical/surgical conditions, but the focus is on their impact on pregnancy and childbirth and the necessary care for these women. A basic premise in midwifery education is that students need a thorough grounding in normal pregnancy and childbirth so that they can easily recognise abnormal situations and make appropriate referrals.
The scope of midwifery practice is normal childbirth. This is where midwives work autonomously and where they must be competent and confident. When women need additional specialist care, midwives work alongside obstetricians who specialise in this area.
Students work in a variety of settings over three years including family planning clinic, independent midwifery practices, neonatal intensive care units, maternity hospitals, laboratories, homebirth, and community. All students have a dedicated ‘block’ in base hospitals to achieve the experience necessary for competency in recognising deviations from the normal and working collaboratively with obstetricians in the provision of secondary care.
Each of the midwifery schools offers satellite education for students who are situated in provincial centres. This allows students who reside in provincial centres to access most of the components of the education from their home, although some travel will be required. The school that you will apply to will depend on where you live. The following list sets out the regions that the various schools cover.
Auckland University of Technology: Auckland, Northland, Taranaki
Wintec: Hamilton, Waikato Tairawhiti, Hawkes Bay, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua/Lakes
Ara Institute of Canterbury: Christchurch, Nelson Marlborough West Coast, South Canterbury
Otago Polytechnic: Dunedin, Wellington region including Wairarapa, Hutt Valley and Kapiti Coast, Manawatu including Palmerston North, Whanganui, Central Otago, Southland