This article contains posts and extracts from the UK Midwives and Consumers email list, a discussion group for people interested in midwifery in the UK. Open to midwives, students, mothers, and anyone interested in improving maternity services in UK. Posts in these archives express the views of the individual authors, and not those of the Association of Radical Midwives. Unless otherwise stated, the comments are personal experiences rather than evidence-based research.

Training to be a midwife in the UK

Email group for student midwives in the UK

Please feel free to join if you are currently studying midwifery or interested in doing so.

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Website run by a student midwife with lots of advice on where to study and how to apply.

The student midwives sanctuary website has a message board, info on college courses and training routes, and links to more midwifery sites.

What’s it like?

I am loving every minute of my course and have just completed a three week placement within the hospital. I had plenty of experiences and the midwives I worked with were great. The greatest experience of all was my very first delivery (I don’t like using that word but at least everyone knows what I am talking about.) This was something that I have been desperate to do since starting the course. I did wonder whether I would feel afraid or nervous when the time actually came, but I didn’t. I felt really confident and totally at ease with the situation. I love being with the women during their labours and feel totally overjoyed when they experience the birth they desire.


I’m a 2nd year student at the University of Central Lancashire. I love my course, even though my exams are looming and I’ve got lots of essays to write. My course lasts for 4 years so I’ve still got 2 more years to complete, but each year goes so quickly, i can’t believe im nearly a 3rd year. My next clinical placement is NICU and im not particuarly looking forward to it, as i really love straight forward normal midwifery, not lots of tubes and monitors and attatchments, but you never know i may surprise my self and really take to it.


I am working in Exeter, Devon, UK. Before we can progress to F grade we have to have competencies in IV admin, epidural top-ups, and suturing. The hospital I work in runs in house training on these topics and then there is a number that you have to watch, and then be supervised.

However I do begrudge these competencies a bit since you have to achieve them in your own time and that can be difficult when the unit is busy. Also they keep moving the goal posts and adding to them so obtaining an F grade sometimes seems impossible.

Love Robyn

Don’t worry about the age thing. I’m almost 37 and have another two years to go. There are quite a few of us ‘older’ mature students at my uni–the eldest started at 49! She asked her interviewers specifically if they thought her age would be a problem when looking for a job –considering it’s a 4 year course. They didn’t think it would be any problem as her other life skills were important.

It’s hard work–my daughters are 10 and 13, so are beginning to be a bit self sufficient, but there is all the taxi-ing to and fro and out of school activities to sort out. Between us we seem to manage pretty well. If they were younger it would be harder to leave them, but they wouldn’t have the clubs and stuff to go to. On my course we have a variously aged children, from toddlers to teens, including a baby due in September–we seem to manage, but you need support from family or friends–like when your child falls ill the week you have 2 assignments to finish or whatever, it’s good to have a supportive partner or mum who can help out. Think about how you be supported and how you will get organised, and bring it up at your interview if it’s not raised, it will show that you are thinking ahead.

Do ring any college or uni you are thinking of applying to and get some advice about entry requirements and I am sure they will be very helpful. For example, my uni needed evidence that I had done academic learning within the last 18 months.

I want to say ‘good luck’ to all of you considering midwifery–it’s hard work, but I love it.


Treasure your experiences…

I am a student midwife at the end of my first year of training. Today I caught my sixth baby (the sixth boy!!), and it was a great birth.

It was the mum’s second baby, and by the time I got to her she was in established labour. Basically, she just went with her body. No pain relief, no VE’s, just rocking around, mobilising and having a cuddle with her husband when she needed it. Five minutes after she told me she wanted to push, the baby was born. Everything came out with one push, I just about caught him! Despite him being 9lb 1oz, she did not tear, and went on to have a physiological third stage.

It has to be the best birth I have attended. All of them are special in their own way, but this one comes out tops because it made me realise that it would happen even if I wasn’t there, and I should stand back and be there only when I am needed.

Nearly a second year student!

Just want to announce that I ‘caught’ my first baby last friday and it was indeed a catch! the midwife supervising me was great! Totally hands-off, and all I did was literally hand the baby up to its mum, mum and baby did everything else.

I’m sure that you all remember the first baby you ‘caught’. I certainly will, but what I will remember more are the very diverse skills I have seen during my 1st 2 weeks on delivery suite from both newly qualified and very experienced midwives, especially the way that women are supported during their labours, and I hope that I’ve picked out all the best bits to remember and practice in the future.


Congratulations Marion – It’s a lovely feeling! I hope it’s the first of many many happy births. I have on my wall a little black and white photo of the first birth I had! I advise you to keep a record of your cases. Get yourself a Register from the RCM and write them up, and then when you are as old as me you have the record to look back on.

Mary Cronk.

I keep my personal birth register; I have bought one ready printed out by the RCM – you just have to fill in the boxes. it has a little space for remarks too, this is where I write the ‘special things’ about each birth.


Congratulations to all of you about to embark on the midwifery course.. 🙂 The first few weeks of your course will be filled with hundreds of emotions you will never experience quite in the same way!

Something was suggested by my lecturers when I started my course 3 years ago, which unfortunately I have not done, but now realise how nice it would have been to do it! We were told: what you are feeling now, you will never feel again in quite the same way and believe it or not you will also not be able to remember fully the feelings you are experiencing now in years to come, so a good thing if you want would be to have a personal diary and when you get back from lectures/clinical placements, write a summary of what happened and how you felt. In a few years time it will be a delight to read it back to yourself, remembering those emotions and see how far you’ve come!

I wish I did this diary; some of the girls in my group did and found it invaluable so I thought I suggest it to you about to start. You could start today; don’t have to wait for the course to start 😉

(5 weeks away from being a registered midwife!!!!!!)

I did not bother much with a reflective diary whilst training as a nurse, but found it invaluable as a student midwife. I also keep a personal *delivery* register which is up to date. After the 40 student catches, I drew a heavy red line across to separate – this helps me to focus on my progression.

When I have a student, I document the entry with an asterix because I am accountable for these (scary) too. I really treasure my register – along with thank you cards – which I keep in my portfolio, and look at if ever I’m feeling despondent. Never fails to uplift!

Funny though, so many women I remember clearly and strongly, while others I have real problems visualising – and I’ve only caught 90 now!

On my last set of nights, I popped out through A&E for a smoko, and a voice said “Hi Elaine” – I remembered the family by sight, but was embarrassed that I couldn’t name her – oops – but a pal reminded me that I was one of one to the woman, but she was one of many……………. Found that rather sad, but truth is, some women leave a much more profound effect than others do. But how I wish I had a photographic memory!!

I would recommend a diary and a register to all our students to be. Good Luck to you all – go out there and enjoy!


P.S. Can I just say that 9 out of 10 days leave me SO happy that I’m now a midwife. O.K., some days are awful, but I love this profession with a passion I always knew it would be and I wish everybody could enjoy their (midwifery and otherwise) careers as much.

When I was a student we kept a record of everything (including antenatal and postnatal visits as well as births) in a yellow book. Once I qualified, I jotted down all “my” births in a notebook.

As community midwives, we are expected to keep our own copy of all “our” births…and therefore have provided a personal birth register… they are a legal document and shouldn’t be destroyed. If we can’t store them then they are given to the LSA for safe keeping. You can buy them…but I suggest you try and scrounge one from the community office!!!


Direct-Entry Midwifery

I am a student midwife about to embark on the third year of my diploma course. I developed a passion for midwifery when I had my own children, and took the risk of abandoning an enjoyable and rewarding career to embark on the training. I knew the financial reward for this move would be non-existant, but nothing could have prepared me for the financial hardship and demanding lifestyle I was about to embrace….

This, however, is not the subject of this posting as I am sure that many of the readers of these postings will already be well aware of all of the difficulties that face our current crop of mature student midwives..

My angst, unfortunately, is caused by some of the staff that I work with (or against as it often feels). As a student, I find I am dragged (kicking and screaming) into the ‘internal staff-room politics’ that exist at the hospital. The ‘us and them’ attitudes that exist between … well anyone and everyone are childish and make life almost unbearable at times. Students are often seen merely as an annoyance by many of the members of staff with which we are expected to work, and as half of our training is based at the university, we have often had limited time to develop the skills expected of us in some areas. When we are placed with mentors who either expect nothing and ignore our presence, or expect a fully competent midwife and are highly critical when this is not what they get, our learning experience is limited and our confidence is shattered.

Speaking from personal experience, I have encountered some amazing midwives who have filled me with confidence and given me the inspiration to carry on. I have also experienced midwives who have reduced me to tears and made me feel inadequate and who have actually made me re-consider my career path for the future.

We are often criticised by midwives for taking a ‘direct-entry’ path, and often for merely having a university-based education, when an alternative no longer exists. I for one would jump at the chance of a hospital based education (particularly one with as salary as in the ‘good old days’!) but alas… I am stuck with a bursary, and the equivalent of a full-time job with a mostly irrelevant university diploma on-top, and a family if and when I can squeeze them in. As I mentioned, all of this is bearable with the support of those I work with.

This message is intended for that minority of midwives who make student placements so miserable, and are directly responsible for the loss of AT LEAST 4 members of my cohort already – We ARE trying our hardest, we DO smile sweetly and try to fit in, and we DO appreciate that it isn’t always easy to have a student, but we ALL need to learn sometime.


To all the student midwives having a hard time out there – I sincerely empathise with you. I was a direct entry midwife and was greeted by midwives in my place of training with anything from ‘you’re not getting the best training’ to ‘well, paper qualifications mean nothing’. Experience is a wonderful quality I agree but I didn’t make the rules, I didn’t decide how midwives were to be trained and all I asked was for my mentors to pass on their wealth of experience in the hope I would make a half decent midwife.

I was, and still am, to a point, made to feel like a second class midwife. However, I survived, and have now been qualified for 4 years and have learnt an awful lot. A bit like learning to drive, you really learn when you have passed your test. Midwifery is no different.

I would say to all you students out there, keep reading this list, you will gain knowledge and comfort in knowing that we on this list will support you however we can. I for one am quite happy for any student to e-mail me personally to gripe, groan or to share happy experiences. I made be viewed by some as a ‘second-class’ midwife by a minority (not on this list, I must add) but I care about women, pregnant women, midwives or midwives to be, and I love my job and I always try to give 110%.

I started my training in 1993, I had 4 children who were 15, 13, 6 and 5 at the time, partner worked away from home, family lived far away. It was hell on earth and I had no one to talk to, it bothers me greatly to think of others in that position. So don’t ever think you are alone, you’re not. You have us on this list and we will get you through it. Once you have qualified you will be rewarded by working within a wonderful profession where there are people prepared to put themselves out to help you and give you the confidence to challenge anything you feel is inappropriate. This is what I have gained from this list and all the wonderful people who contribute to it. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.


Speaking as a mum, not a midwife, please don’t give up on your training! You are needed so much – midwives like you can make such a difference.

Take a look at this bulletin board on (the thread “treated badly in hospital”) – it makes such depressing reading and in most of the examples all that was required was a kind look and a bit of encouragement – a midwife who didn’t trivialise the mother’s anxiety and listened to what she had to say. As you’ll see from the posts some of the mums managed to take some small revenge and most are able to recognise that there ARE good midwives out there, whilst some are more bitter about their experience and all are understandably disappointed by their experience of a hospital delivery.

Even as students you can make a BIG difference. When I had my daughter I’d arranged a home-birth and my community midwife asked me could she bring a student along (I’d already met her during my antenatal care, although she had by the birth she had moved on to another placement). I agreed and my community midwife and Kay arrived at 8pm, they both stayed all night until I was transferred to hospital the following morning, as my cervix wasn’t dilating. At this point my community midwife went home and Kay went to bed in the nurses home, asking me if she could come back to the delivery when it was imminent.

When I finally reached the second stage she came back, having only had about 6 hours sleep and it made a big difference to me her being there. She encouraged me all through the second stage, telling me when I was having a contraction so I could push (I had an epidural) and holding one of my hand’s. She was an absolute rock and I was so glad to have a familiar face there, especially as it got a bit hairy at the end. Throughout it all she stayed calm and helped me to stay calm too as by the end I really was on the verge of panic. I can honestly say I’ll never forget her.


I trained because I had a bad experience, followed by a good one. I remember thinking, ‘ if I can make this much difference to somebody else’s life, it’s what I want to do. I haven’t regretted it for one moment.


Direct-Entry or Nurse Training?

Direct-entry midwives do not train as nurses. They follow a three-year full-time course before qualifying. The other option is nurse-entry midwifery, where a nurse takes an additional 18-month course in order to qualify as a midwife.

Do you all enjoy being midwives? I realise that the environment in which you work can be discouraging sometimes, but do you still feel it is worthwhile? Is it a career you would recommend to other people and what do you think about direct entry?

I have been involved with direct entry students since 1992 and I think the fact that the courses continue to develop and expand says that it is worthwhile.

In Brighton we run both 18 month and 3 year and each intake of students brings a new wave of enthusiasm. It is hard work and students have big ups and big downs like we all do, and support during those times is essential – lists like this give a sounding board, and support even at 3 in the morning when you can’t sleep. Trying to keep the students focussed on their original reasons for midwifery is important as the ‘clash of cultures’ between hospital / community, midwifery and obstetrics can cause disappointments, disillusion and then they leave.

Students taking the 3 year route all are motivated to be midwives and many come knowing a considerable amount about the profession from their personal experience. I don’t know what percentage of 3 year midwives stay in the profession, and for how long but looking around in the units I link with it appears that many do stay in the profession (for the moment?). Finding the best way to educate midwives is open for debate.


I have just started the third year of my training. I came into midwifery after having a baby. During pregnancy, delivery and after I met midwives. I thought long and hard and really questioned my motives about wanting to be a midwife. Was it because of my bad birth experience? Was it in spite of it? Was it because I felt I had something to offer now that I had had that experience? Even now I’m not 100% sure of why I want to be a midwife. I just know that I have never once regretted my decision to train. Despite the lack of money the ups and downs of the clinical experiences. Though I have to say I could not have come this far without the support of my husband and my family.

I worried about my inability to make a bed ‘nurse’ style and the first time I was asked to bed bath someone I was just told where to get the basin and left to get on with it. So me and the woman ( my second delivery)did the job between us!!

About a third of my class already have children and are older. Childcare is a major problem. If you do decide to train, make sure all your support networks are in place, for all eventualities – 12hr shifts, early and lates and that home confinement you desperately want to go to!!

Gillian, Student Midwife

I am a direct entry midwifery student at the grand old age of 51, (having waited 30yrs for the right time) and I would not want to do anything else.

I’ve just started my 3rd and final year, the academic stuff is often challenging, often frustrating but thank goodness we work clinical practice side by side with theory so there’s always the joy of hands-on midwifery to pick you up.

Personally I feel that direct entry is preferable as midwifery is totally different to nursing in approach and ethos, widwives being much more autonomous practitioners.

Yes, sometimes things are discouraging, but if the profession is truly ‘be with women’ then changes need to come from the inside.


Whilst I have never regretted training as a midwife, I have to constantly remind myself why I did so. For me this is easy, as I wrote throughout my training for the NCT magazine, New Generation (1994-1998)about my experiences as a student midwife.

Being a student was easy compared to life now, even though my children are much older. It is far more now a way of life – but the stress is unimaginable at times.

But I still wouldn’t consider doing anything else. The rewards, most of the time are wonderful.


In response to a query from a nurse who was planning to ‘specialise’ in midwifery:

Try not to refer to midwifery as a “speciality”. Many midwives, including myself, are almost paronoid about midwifery being referred to as a speciality, the implication being a Speciality of Nursing which we most definately are not. We are a separate profession. We are a sisterhood. We are a funny old lot, but we are NOT A BRANCH OF NURSING . In sisterhood,

Mary Cronk

Welcome to the UK Midwives and Consumers List. You’ll find a lot of support here, for when you want to sound off about frustrations – and a welcome listening ear for the times when you want to tell the world how great you feel about something that happened at work. There will be plenty of both, I can assure you.

Midwifery is a profession on a par with, rather than a speciality of, nursing. From the time midwifery was established with its own Act of Parliament (about 100 years ago) the course was designed for non-nurses, and ‘direct entry’ midwives are a strong element of the midwives practising today. Quite other than an adjunct to nursing, midwifery has granted a reduced training concession to qualified nurses in recognition of the time spent learning basic skills such as taking blood pressure, venepuncture, Anatomy, Physiology, Biology, etc. However, there are many who believe that this should cease – as midwifery students need to go much deeper into human reproductive issues than general nurse students have hitherto done.

As a midwife who qualified as a nurse first, I can vouch for the fact that there is a lot of un-learning to do in order to become an autonomous practitioner in midwifery. For a start, you need to learn that doctors don’t always have the answer, and as you progress through the course, you’ll learn that the protocols, policies and procedures in force are not always based on evidence of good practice.

As a student you have the right, indeed the duty, to question everything! Learn to ask ‘why?’ constantly – of the doctors, colleagues, senior midwives, and others who tell you that ‘this is what we do here’, Ask for the study, research etc., on which actions are based – and if you are given a reference, look it up!

Eventually, as a qualified midwife you will be expected to act autonomously, making your own clinical judgements which may not always be in line with the opinions of medical or midwifery colleagues – it is an awesome but exhilarating responsibility.

Finally, join the Association of Radical Midwives and wear the badge. I found it was a great opener for debate!

I wish you well

In sisterhood,


From a former nurse, who is not a midwife:

I do think midwifery as it should be is not a speciality of nursing, but something very special, but please, don’t write all nurses off as unthinking doctors’ handmaidens – that would be almost as unfair as describing all midwives as CTG monitor monitors!

I didn’t just question my maternity care as a bolshy mother who wanted her own way, but because that was something which had been reinforced (I won’t say instilled, because I don’t think I would have gone that route had I been the doctors’ handmaiden type) by my education and experience in nursing.


Midwifery is wonderful…… even when it is bad.

I am Canadian…….I came to england to train because at the time Midwifery was not legal in Ontario…..they made it legal about three years ago……. I fell in love with birth when listening to my mother talk about it….she is a labour and delivery nurse….who used to catch her fair amount of babies that couldn’t wait for the doctor to arrive.

She was the person who said to me…..”catch” not “deliver”……the mothers do that……

And then I came across Maggie Myles…….Midwifery… and then across…….Spiritual Midwifery

A Midwife was born…..

and I waited thru nursing school when they said nursing wasn’t a stepping stone to Midwifery….and I waited thru two years of nursing whilst waiting for my creds to clear thru english UKCC…… and I sent off letter after letter asking to be let into what I felt was the finest training possible in the modern world….english Midwifery…..

And now I am here……..its been eight years and I am still here….. and I love it……I lost my first baby on the day I qualified…..and although my heart was broken…..I remembered the quote from Ina May….in Spirtual Midwifery……..being a midwife means lettin your heart open….and letting your heart be broken….helps…… I have been around for the most stupendous event happening in the human race……the continuation of the human race……and I am honoured….privileged to be there…… They surprise me every time…….the babies and the mothers…….they test me…….test my patience…….test my nerves….test my emotions…….I am blessed…….I am tired…..I am happy……..

Yesterday….I looked after a woman…….she was so small….her toes…my word her toes were so short……….I wondered…I wanted her to teach me……my shift was ending…..I begged my childminder to stay late…..and I went back……and she said….I want to go to the loo……and we walked there…..and she said…..oh….I am stretching… burns……and I told the medical student observing to bring a pillow to put over the basin…..and without looking….without being able to see… hands recieved that baby and helped it “peek” out from under that womans nightgown and say hello to its mother…..she had had a forceps the last time because they thought she was too small……and this time when I asked if she was ready to walk back to her bed she said……”I can do anything, anything I want to!”

I am sorry to run on and on with an experience that I am sure others share on this list…..but I just wanted to convey what Midwifery means to me……and I work in a Hospital…..and I still feel the energy and wonder of birth…..and its hard……and it breaks your heart sometimes…….but you make a difference…..and that is the work that you do………you are needed if you feel the call…….go for it…….


I have been involved with direct entry students since 1992 and I think the fact that the courses continue to develop and expand says that it is worthwhile. In Brighton we run both 18 month and 3 year and each intake of students brings a new wave of enthusiasm. It is hard work and students have big ups and big downs like we all do, and support during those times is essential – lists like this give a sounding board, and support even at 3 in the morning when you can’t sleep. Trying to keep the students focussed on their original reasons for midwifery is important as the ‘clash of cultures’ between hospital / community, midwifery and obstetrics can cause disappointments, disillusion and then they leave.

Students taking the 3 year route all are motivated to be midwives and many come knowing a considerable amount about the profession from their personal experience. I don’t know what percentage of 3 year midwives stay in the profession, and for how long but looking around in the units I link with it appears that many do stay in the profession (for the moment?). Finding the best way to educate midwives is open for debate.


I am a direct entry midwife who has been qualified for three years. I love my job. I came into midwifery training at forty years of age, a little worried that I might be too old – but my fears were unfounded. When I commenced training my children were three years and five years old and I would be lying if I said that it was all plain sailing. Three years is a long time and lots can happen, in that time I had serious illness and my mother died from cancer. The course itself caused lots of tension within my marriage. If you are intending to train, then I feel it is best to be aware of these things. You become very single minded, eat drink and sleep midwifery and lay the blame for all things at the door of men and the medical establishment!

During the course all of my set changed beyond recognition, becoming assertive (aka bolshie!) independent thinkers. Marriage problems were rife, probably due to the personality changes in us. We saw one another through deaths, marriages, serious illnesses and relationship problems. We discovered midwifery was not just about delivering babies but about empowering the women in our care, about supporting them through pain, disappointment and (sometimes) pregnancy loss and stillbirth. As a non-nurse I felt disadvantaged by lack of general skills, such as running through intravenous infusions, bedbaths, bedmaking. These might seem like silly things to worry about, but they were big worries and I felt that until I had mastered those, then I was seriously lacking. OK, midwifery is definitely not nursing, but you do need some of the associated skills.

And now? Well, I have been qualified for just over three years. I am a senior midwife on labour ward and involved in quite a large research project for which we have just submitted a funding proposal to the MRC. I enjoy teaching student midwives and believe that the disadvantages I felt help me in supporting them. New students quite often request me as a mentor, which is extremely satisfying. I love antenatal care and delivery suite. I find postnatal care very unfulfilling, not because the work isn’t important but due to lack of staff, which means you can’t do your job properly and to the best of your ability. My favourite thing is normal deliveries without resort to continuous monitoring etc, I also like looking after women who are suffering pregnancy loss. this seems a strange thing to enjoy, and it is always distressingly sad, but the way you act with these women and the support you give them will remain with them forever; my least favourite thing (as I have already said) is postnatal care, which, due to staff shortages, seems just like factory work when it could be so much more.

So, is midwifery fulfilling – yes, undoubtedly. It was worth every tear, argument and soul searching moment of the three years training. For me, it’s been like coming home. Sorry, for the long posting, but I’m still passionate about my job!


Direct-entry midwifery is alive and well in Scotland. For details of courses see NBS Catch (

Just go for it. I’m a first year student midwife with Bournmeouth University based at Portsmouth. I started this course with three children under 4. They are now four and a half, three and a half, one year and three months old. I’ve also discovered that I’m 15 weeks pregnant. You can do it, it takes a bit of juggling, you go mad once in a while, but hey, don’t all midwives?

My friend and I just rekindled the Chichester/Portsmouth branch of the ARM and that’s just wacky, the disorganisation that goes with it is outrageous. Go on, be an ARM member from now, wear your badge when you start your training, be known as the stroppy ARM student midwife. This isn’t me trying to put you off. Where I train I do feel that wearing the ARM badge does do something. Some midwives actually feel threatened by it – strange.


I’m in my second year direct entry training… Most people would say it is too early for me to say if I am happy being a midwife (well…student), but I know I am happy, satisfied and will be forever, yes, lack of staff does have an impact (on us students as well) and can make you feel very frustrated knowing that you can’t always give 100% because of it, but despite this I still feel this is the right place for me and I definitely recommend midwifery as a profession to anyone who thinks they might enjoy it.

Regarding direct entry….I sometimes have people telling me how much of a better midwife I would make if had my nurse training behind me, but all I can say to these people is that they like to think that only because they would feel inadequate saying anything else, what I mean is: if you were nurse-trained first would you feel good about saying that direct entry midwives make the best midwives? Not that I am saying that at all! I believe that both direct entry and nurse trained midwives can make good midwives, those who are nurse trained first acquire certain knowledge/skills before (and that is why they only have to do 18 months) and the direct entry trained acquire those skills and knowledge during their training (hence the 3 years!!). Therefore there is no difference to me at all. We are as competent as each other.


I am a 3rd year direct entrant student midwife (who hasn’t as yet properly introduced myself to the list but will do I promise) with four boys aged 7,6,4 and 2 1/2. I am also an NCT antenatal teacher!!

I remember asking the same question of my midwives as you have, before I chose to apply for the course. The response was generally, that they loved midwifery but were tired of fighting all the time to actually practice true midwifery. Now that I have been in the system for awhile I can understand their feelings better. If you really want to and enjoy helping women, and have the enthusiasm to keeping trying to make a difference then you will probably enjoy midwifery. I have found that I need and thrive on support from other midwives, from the women I have had contact with and my family. It is the hospital culture that I am still not comfortable with and therefore, in time, am aiming for a community/caseload post.

As regards direct entry, I have not really found this problematic. I have at times felt frustrated when some midwives expect you to know some of the basic nursing skills as soon as you go into practice, but this hasn’t happened often. There have been incidences of midwives having a negative reaction to us not being nurses first because we are not as knowledgable about non obstetric complications. However, other midwives are positive towards us because we have a purely midwifery/normal approach rather than a pathological approach to the women. I think we tend to challenge the system more, having not been in the hospital culture before. All this is just my personal experience but I hope it has helped.


May I make a few comments regarding direct entry Vs nurse first midwifery? Midwifery uses a vast range of different skills in caring for women, of which the clinical ‘nursing’ skills are only a very small part. These skills can easily be attained in a direct entry course. I feel there are alot more pertinent skills that a midwife should have such as interpersonal skills, communication skills, psychology and most of all a love for midwifery. Being a nurse first does not automatically give you these skills. In clinical practice there are a certain amount of nurse/midwives who have very judgmental opinions of direct entry which appears not to be based on ability but on tradition.

I am a direct entry midwife in my final year and close to qualifying and I feel my previous working background which involved interacting with a variety of different people has given me a good grounding from which to build on. I don’t think I am lacking as a midwife because I was not a nurse first, I feel able and competent to practice and need to gain midwifery experience in order to develop. I have spoken to a few post registration student midwives and they feel that although nursing gave them a basic knowledge, the midwifery training has been a brand new area of skill learning for them.

What we need to do is to judge a midwife on her ability to do the job and not on her previous nursing experience, and learn to support each other.


I have to say I agree with everything you have said Louise. I am a lecturer on a direct entry programme and one of the most demoralising experiences for the students is when nurse first midwives make comments about their training being better. There are many qualified direct entry midwives working in the area and no one sees any difference in their practice from those who are nurses first. Yet the others persist in these comments.


An unsolicited international status report on nurse vs direct entry midwifery…

In Ontario, and this model is definitely being emulated in other regions of Canada, there is no such thing as Nurse Midwifery! Foreign trained nurse midwives must do an assessment to meet local standards, which are based around a the qualifications from the direct entry programme which is the only training implicitly recognized by the College of Midwives of Ontario. The midwifery education programme offers no advanced standing for nurses, though they may get some course by course exemptions if their education is recent.

Sky, in Ontario

I’m a nurse-first midwife & I’ve worked with loads of students. Most of them are great & I don’t think pre-registration makes any difference at the end of the day!!!

As for me I don’t consider myself to be a nurse. I’m definitely a MIDWIFE, & I never want to do general nursing again!!!


So sad that this disgust against direct entry is still going strong. I am also a “pre-reg” midwife who landed a G grade job after 18 months qualified. Many of my and previous cohorts did very well for themselves. F grades on qualifying and a team leader post after two years. They would not be given these jobs if they were not worthy of them!

Let’s remind ourselves that direct entry midwifery has been going strong since at least the 1970s. And what makes some of the nurse trained midwives amongst us go on and on about the fact that we don’t know any basic nursing skills? Do they think an orthopedic nurse for instance, could care for a woman labouring at home in a pool? I do it at least once a month and the last baby born had to be resuscitated (successfully, I might add).

Not every single nurse has the skills to care for every single eventuality, nor do they never make mistakes. We are all accountable for our practice and if our care is lacking in some way it cannot be blamed on the fact that we weren’t nurses before! In fact, I think I shall start moaning about the appalling care given to women and their families by some nurse trained midwives, stating loudly that their nurse training is obviously getting in the way of them becoming decent m/ws!!!


You may be surprised to learn that ‘direct entry’ midwifery training has always been available. In fact it was during the late 1970s that DE almost became extinct. The revival was a combination of three elements: 1. the move into HE colleges, 2. the fact that the EC regulations were about to open up the borders and make it possible for workers to move and work in other countries. European midwives already had DE education systems, as a separate profession from nursing. And last but not least – 3. the Direct Entry Campaign led by ARM, against the closures of DE training schools, and proving that there was considerable demand for such training from ‘mature’ students. (Those in favour of abandoning DE said there was no demand!)

The midwife in charge of Antenatal Clinic where I used to work was DE trained – she qualified in the late 1950s.

In sisterhood


I am coming to the conclusion that ALL student midwives need to do the direct entry course. If a nurse retrained to become a doctor, he/she would be required to do the full training, so why is it assumed that nurses can do a shortened midwifery course? The extra 18 months could be usefully spent in observation and being with women, in a midwifery led unit, preferably at the start of the course so that ‘nursey’ type attitudes could be dispelled. I feel that an independent autonomous spirit needs to be fostered right from the start with (undue) deference to doctors trained out of nurses! A three-year training might do a better job at this than 18 months.

I don’t intend any disrespect to present nurse-trained midwives.


In my first job as a midwife after qualifying, myself and another direct entry midwife frequently had comments such as “you wont be able to look after a pregant\postnatal woman who has a medical condition if you are not a nurse”.

This started to get very irritating so we decided to give an information giving session at the local RCM meeting. This involved explaining what the direct entry course involved, with handouts etc. for them all to read. It provoked an interesting debate and even if there were some who werent convinced, I think we earned their respect by grasping the issue by the balls, so to speak.


What a good idea – to do a teaching sesssion for those midwives who did not understand what a three year prereg course involved -other places please copy!

Mary Cronk – a midwife who was a nurse and had to spend a lot of time learning how not to be one when caring for childbearing women.

Should Midwifery be an All-Graduate Profession?

My gut instinct is definitely – NO! I’ve no objection to the idea of graduate midwives as such, but to make it a requirement would exclude a large number of potentially wonderful woman-centred, caring, intelligent midwives who would like to take a different route. The work ARM has done on education (Vision for Midwifery Education, published 1999) has shown that there are other ways to arrive at the goal.

The term ‘graduate’ implies having followed a university-based course, where by agreement with the University and UKCC, the award of the degree also confers qualification. The alternative routes proposed in VME (apprenticeship, distance learning, placements, part-time, etc.) could lead to qualification as a midwife by satisfying the requirements of the National Board and therefore being registered (RM).

“graduates learn how to base their practice on evidence/research and this sets up life-long learning etc….”

I agree with this to some extent. It all depends on the quality of teaching and whether the practice part of the course allows such a skill to be used – many students find themselves having to go along with the current policies, regardless of whether they are based on evidence/research. We have already had desperate messages from students afraid to challenge the status quo!

If good research teaching is incorporated into a non-University course, the student can gain skills in using research just as well as the student on a graduate course.

There is great danger in forgetting the essentially ‘hands-on’ nature of midwifery skills, and also of discounting the value of qualitative research, anecdotal evidence, personal observation and experience, etc., all of which have already been ably presented and/or published by midwives without degrees. Not all these are acknowledged in the rush to gain a degree by writing an acceptable thesis.

I would therefore vigorously oppose any move to bring in a requirement that all midwives should be ‘graduates’ as well as ‘registered’. As in most things in life, there is tremendous value in diversity!


Books recommended by list members

Essential Midwifery, by C Henderson, K Jones. Mosby (Pubs).

Culture, Religion and Childbearhing in a multiracial society.
By J Schott, A Henley. Butterworth Heinemann (Pubs).

I have recently bought a WONDERFUL textbook which I heartily recommend to any aspiring student of midwifery, or anyone who wants a book which encompasses the ethos of woman-centred care
“The New Midwifery: Science and Sensitivity in Practice”
Ed: Lesley Ann Page, Published by Churchill Livingstone, 2000, ISBN 0-443-05572-6

Interview and Application Tips

I am applying to go to University to do the midwifery diploma. What should I expect if (!) I get invited for an interview? I want to make the best impression (naturally) and don’t want to stuff it up !

I was interviewed for my place on a Midwifery degree course, which I began in september. I was asked a bit about the maternity care I received and what changes had made an impact on midwifery, for example Changing Childbirth (D.O.H.1993) and also what midwifery journals I read and my views on them. I was also asked what I thought the role of a midwife entailed.

Hope these questions are of some value. By the way I am 36 with two children aged 10 and 13 and I am really enjoying the course, but I won’t pretend it isn’t hard work!

I have just been accepted into University to do my degree in Midwifery and I can honestly say the best thing for you to do is to be yourself. I know it sounds corny, but my interview was so relaxed I felt as though I wasn’t actually being interviewed.

They will ask the obvious question – “Why you want to go into Midwifery?”, and questions like, What makes you a good candidate, what can you give to your fellow students, about the shift work you will be doing as well as all your study, i.e. night shifts, early shifts (eg 7.30am to 3.00) late shifts (eg 1.30 to 9.30 ). How you will cope with the volume of work as well as the shifts you will have at the unit and your family and what arangements you have for your childcare.

I got in contact with the volenteers co-ordinator at the hospital and they made it possible for me to go into the Maternity unit for a week to get an idea of the work that midwives do and I found this very valuable in my interview.


I’m studying in Swansea. I qualify this year (age 37) and am by no means the most elderly person on the course! Evidence of recent study is a good idea – I did A level psychology at evening classes the year I applied, and you’d obviously need to make sure you meet the educational entry requirements.


I started my training in January ’99 and I am now nearly 46!!

On the question of what to do with your time between now and the interview, subscribing to ARM will give you a great quarterly magazine with lots of insights into the issues surrounding midwifery.

You will need a midwifery text book when you start your training and getting one now will increase your understanding of any articles you are able to get your hands on. The one I have is Mayes Midwifery but there is also a fairly recent edition of Myles out. Visit your nearest university bookshop and compare the two to see which you prefer.

University libraries may be happy for you to visit their journal rooms to read. There is usually a wide range of relevant journals and this is a cheaper way of getting input from different journals than subscribing to them all. Study a bit of psychology and sociology if you get the chance – it will be covered in your course.

As for the interview – just be yourself. You’re clear in your mind why you want to be a midwife and that’s important.


It is well worth contacting your local maternity unit and asking if you can spend some time there, or shadowing a community or team based midwife. Keep your ears open for any study days that sound interesting–you don’t have to be a midwife to go to many of them and it’s a good way of meeting people already ‘doing it’ and getting some background info.


It is certainly worth asking if you can spend some time with qualified midwives – if you are able to do this then it will be another weight in your favour at your interview. You should be aware, though, that many midwives will already be mentoring students and may not be able to accommodate you. Still, the worst they can do to you is to say no!!

I got a letter this morning inviting me for an interview at the university I hope to do my midwifery diploma at. It says that the day will include information sessions, various activities, a short interview and a health assessment.

Can anyone tell me more about what’s involved?

And I have a silly question too. What should I wear?


I have attended one interview for a Diploma programme already, and I wore a skirt, top and cardigan – everyone else wore trousers!! So I don’t think it matters too much as long as you are smart. 🙂 You could always check with the recruitment team at your Uni, I’m sure they won’t mind giving you guidance.

The selection days I am attending include similar sessions to the ones you describe above (I have to complete essays and a maths test at mine too!) and I feel sure this is standard procedure for the ‘whittling down’ process.

I’ve been advised to ‘be yourself’…. not easy when you are nervous and the interviewers feel like a firing squad!! 🙂


My interview was an all-day affair, but the actual spoken interview was only 1/2 hour. The rest of the time we were told about the course, the practical components and the written.

We were shown the timetable for the whole three years, discussed the modules and their application to midwifery. We had to write an essay on the role of a midwife (although some of us had not been sent the title in advance so we got extra time to think about our answer!).

We all had lunch together and talked about why we were there, had a medical and were shown round the maternity unit briefly. Later in the afternoon we had our individual interviews, by which time I felt quite relaxed talking to the tutors as we had spent all day with them.

I can’t remember what I wore apart from it was something suity but it does have to be comfortable as you will be spending all day in it.

And if you make a cock-up on the day don’t worry, someone at my interview actually went to the wrong hospital as she hadn’t read the letter properly. One of the tutors there actually drove her to the interview and she arrived 2 hours late. She still got a place!


Links to other sources of information:

Royal College of Midwives – the UK organisation has articles about becoming a midwife, and where to study. (

Student Midwives email group (

AH updated 12 October 2001


  1. Amanda T


    I really want to study midwifery next September at a university but I am worried I will not understand the biology side of the whole course. My biology is not the best as I did BTEC science ate GCSE level, so I have mainly forgot topics based on science or biolog. So I was wondering is biology hard to understand in Midwifery? 🙂


    • Linda

      Hi Amanda, You asking the right person! I have written a book on anatomy and physiology for student midwives! My answer would be that it is all biology applied to midwifery. Not complicated biochemistry type biology. Most students manage fine with the biology even if they have done minimal science of any kind. I am sure you would manage fine.


  2. Nadia Begum

    Hey. I am 13 years old and I really want to be a midwife. But before my GCSEs an all I wanted to take a look at it before choosing my options as I am in year 9. Am I able to join this group because I really want to experience it. So I was wondering if I am able to join?

    • Linda

      Hi there

      There is no group to join! This is just a website/ blog. You are welcome to join the ARM itself and you will find the details elsewhere on the website! Also you could join the yahoo group UK midwifery also detailed elsewhere on the website. Finally have you found SM net? A forum for student midwives starting from before the applications. Linda

  3. Keely

    Being toying with the idea of becoming a midwife for a couple of years now, decided I definitely want to do it, I am academically clever but I do suffer from anxiety quite bad, so I’m feeling nervous. I have a two year old, 22, don’t really have a supportive family, and her dad left when she was a baby. Will I be able to cope?!

    • Nicky Grace

      Hi Keely, thanks for your enquiry. Midwifery training is a big commitment and you’re very young (to me!) and many people enter as mature students so please don’t feel you need to rush into anything. When you’re studying and training, most courses require you to work shifts and these include night shifts, weekends and very early starts and late finishes. So round-the-clock childcare is essential. It may be that there are some family-friendly courses but I am not aware of them. It would probably be a good idea to join a forum such as as they often have up-to-date information about various courses around the country. While the university would not be allowed to discriminate against you in an application, it would be wise for you to consider this as I know many people struggle and often underestimate the workload. However, please don’t give up! You could do all sorts of things which will help to improve your application when you are ready to apply and can really enjoy the course. And of course please do join us, the association of radical midwives! This will bring you into contact with the world of midwifery and childbirth and we always love the enthusiasm of new members!

  4. Felicia

    Hi, I have a friend who is studying health and social care for two years at college. She is telling me that for her third year, which she is doing at university, that she is allowed to go straight into the third year of midwifery. I was wondering is this even possible? Because I was telling her there is no way you can miss out on year one and two as they are really important. Please help me advice her correctly

    • Linda

      Hi, I think this is highly unlikely. I know of no university in the UK where this is possible in midwifery. Some places do similar for nursing. Linda

  5. leah

    hi guys just a quick one, I’m in year 11 and i have wanted to be a midwife for ages and now I’m in year 11 I’m starting to look more at being a midwife, i have looked everywhere for this answer but could anyone please give me a rough estimate for how many people get into midwifery, i am quite confident in myself but someone told me that it is like 1 in 80 people who get in

    kind regards


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