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Midwives in demand

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Brigid Veale
Published
21 September 2011
Southern Cross University is helping to help address the growing shortage of midwives by opening up new opportunities for students across the Mid North Coast to undertake its Bachelor of Midwifery degree.

Professor of Midwifery Kathleen Fahy said that health services, in line with State Government Policy ‘Towards Normal Birth’, were moving to increase the number of midwives who can be the primary caregivers for childbearing women.

Maternity service managers, however, have expressed concern about the ageing midwifery workforce. The average age of midwives is 48 years.

“We need midwives to be up-skilled to be the primary caregivers and to work collaboratively with doctors and other members of the health care team when referrals are necessary,” Professor Fahy said.

“There is good evidence that using midwives as the primary caregiver for healthy women enhances the outcomes for women and protects the health of babies as well.

“For example, research at the Belmont Birthing Services (staffed entirely by skilled and experienced midwives) showed that for healthy women who booked there, they had a 95 per cent chance of a normal birth. This compares with standard hospital care where the normal birth ranges from under 50 per cent to up to about 75 per cent.

“Having a normal birth is really important because women and babies who experience a normal, undisturbed birth have higher rates of breastfeeding; easier bonding; and women have lower rates of postpartum stress disorders. Women who have a normal birth also have much lower risk for complications in each subsequent birth when compared with women who had a complicated birth."

Profesor Fahy said the role of a midwife was to create the ideal conditions for labour and birth and to maintain a constant awareness of the wellbeing of the woman and baby.

“If the woman feels private, safe and warm and loved, then she can relax and her body’s physiology will function optimally. By comparison, if you put the woman in a room with bright lights, noisy machines and allow strangers (unknown doctors and midwives) to walk in unannounced then the woman will be alert and her physiology cannot work at its best,” she said.

Professor Fahy said Southern Cross University had made changes to its Bachelor of Midwifery degree, which is currently offered at SCU Lakeside in Caloola Drive, Tweed Heads.

“From Session 1 2012, the Bachelor of Midwifery will be offered via an innovative flexible mode which will make it easier for people in the Mid North Coast region to study the degree,” she said.

“Students will undertake intensive study at our Tweed Heads location in two or three-week blocks. The remainder of their study can be undertaken in their home location with the support of local clinical facilitators. This means continuous learning while they are in clinical practice.”

An information session to outline the changes and provide an insight into a career as a midwife is being held at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus on Thursday, September 22, from 5pm to 6pm. For details email Maree at [email protected]

Photo: Professor Kathleen Fahy.