Midwifery education has recognised the profession’s autonomy since 1990 and since 1992 this education has been offered via a three-year, pre-registration Bachelor of Midwifery programme.
The development of midwifery curricula was collaborative between consumers, the profession (represented by the College) and educational institutions.
There are four accredited pre-registration midwifery programmes currently available in New Zealand and are provided by:
- Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Auckland
- Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), Hamilton
- Ara Institute of Canterbury (ARA), Christchurch
- Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin
The midwifery schools also offer satellite programmes for students in provincial centres, enabling them to access most components of their education from their home, although some travel will be required.
Bachelor of Midwifery framework
Midwifery schools offer an extended three-year bachelor’s degree programme, meaning that each year has a minimum of 45 programmed weeks rather than the more usual 36 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 midwifery programme has a slightly different curriculum, all meeting the requirements and standards laid down by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand. The Midwifery Council 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 students have successfully completed the programme, they are put forward to be registered. It is the responsibility of each midwifery programme to ensure that students they put forward have met the Midwifery Council of New Zealand Standards for Registration as a Midwife. In addition, the programme must declare that the 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 focus on continuity of care and safe, autonomous practice. 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.
They also must demonstrate knowledge of underlying, pre-existing medical or surgical conditions; and their impact on pregnancy and childbirth; and the necessary care for women with such a condition.
The basic premise in midwifery education, however, 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.
The Bachelor of Midwifery degree has a significant bioscience component and a 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.
Students work in a variety of settings over three years, including family planning clinics, community midwifery practices, neonatal intensive care units, maternity hospitals, laboratories and home births. All students have a dedicated ‘block’ in base hospitals to achieve the experience necessary for competency in recognising deviations from the normal and for working collaboratively with obstetricians in the provision of secondary care.