The mid-year figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) at the end of last year was a bittersweet moment for me. While collectively the number of midwives, nurses and nursing associates registered reached an astounding high of 706 252, when you analyse the individual contributions made by each profession to this figure, midwives appear to be trailing behind (NMC, 2019).
Between April and September 2019, the NMC (2019) witnessed a growth of 1.5% in individuals registering—a total of 8 015 people. The majority of this figure is comprised of nurses (6 669 people registered) and nursing associates (1 488 people registered). The number of registered midwives, however, only increased by 339 people. As I am sure we can all agree, this is not even close to where this number needs – or should – be.
Thinking about it loosely, two major factors play a role here, and which can be applied across the nursing professions too: firstly, the fear and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, with the NMC's report (2019) highlighting the number of registered professionals coming from the EU and EEA dropping by 1 062 people; secondly, the failure of private and public entities' ability to capture the emerging young market sufficiently, with the report demonstrating an increase in those aged between 61-65 registering (2 220) as opposed to those in the 21-30 age bracket registering (1 659).
With this in mind, how do we move forward? How do we encourage and appeal to our younger generation, especially, to pursue midwifery as a career in this day and age? More importantly, what are we doing wrong—what are we doing now that isn't working as well as it did in the past?
Stepping back to have a look at the bigger picture, and casting a retrospective eye on what makes these healthcare professions tick – and what doesn't – will determine the rise or the fall of these figures. It's about accepting that times are changing, as it always will, and there is no stopping it. Being innovative, creative and open to a new ideas in midwifery is what will set this profession apart from the rest. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already seeped and disrupted many rigid sectors over the past few years, from financial services (the introduction of cryptocurrency) to security (the blockchain) and even the property market (ever heard of the UK rental app, Tipi?).
Now is the time for midwives, along with the rest of the healthcare sector, to ride the Fourth wave of modernisation. And for me, I strongly believe midwives have the ability to pioneer this transformation. Change doesn't necessarily come from the top. You, in the field everyday, have the power to observe and communicate what works and what doesn't work. Right now, your actions are paving the way for future generations to learn and grow from, and subsequently defining the future of midwifery.