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Supporting the older midwifery workforce

02 July 2024
Volume 32 · Issue 7

Recently, I paid my annual fee for registration to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Before I pressed the button to submit payment, I wondered if this would be the last year that I keep my midwifery registration.

I am an ‘older’ midwife, and myself and other older midwifery colleagues are looking towards retirement. As life expectancy has increased, so has the challenge of preparing financially in a time when midwifery workloads are heavy and draining. Many midwives opt to work part-time to cope, but suffer financially, while the state pension age is linked to birth date, meaning that there is a reduction in pension if taken before state pension age. In addition, the world is living through a cost-of-living crisis. Yet older midwives are making the choice or are required to remain working in a fast-paced environment for far longer than our parents or grandparents did.

Data from the NMC (2023) states that between April 2022 and March 2023, there were 41 715 registered midwives in the UK, which was an increase of 3.9% on the previous year. However, the Royal College of Midwives (2022) has identified that there remains a shortfall of approximately 2000 midwives across the country. When midwives leaving the profession in the UK were surveyed by the NMC, apart from reaching retirement age, the main reasons cited for leaving included burnout, stress, increasing workloads, lack of support and staffing levels.

As an older midwife, my body gets tired and has aches and pains that were not there 10 years ago. Although I no longer work clinically, I teach in a university, and often go into clinical areas to work alongside midwifery students. I remember early on in my career in the UK, when midwives on shift would share a pot of tea and eat a piece of toast together. I do not see that anymore in the clinical areas. Midwives do not seem to get time for breaks and increasingly, I am seeing older midwives making up a large proportion of the workforce. But as we get older, it takes longer to recover between shifts.

The NHS needs to implement strategies to help support older midwives to ensure longer, successful working lives and improved workplace efficiency. This could occur via redeployment (antenatal clinics for example), flexible and shorter working hours, support networks, recognition of knowledge and experience, and improved workplace ergonomics (Denton et al, 2021).

We came into midwifery and stayed in the profession because we are passionate about ‘being with woman’, which is the core of the midwifery philosophy. Being a midwife is part of the essence of me. And so, I pressed the submit payment button and registered for another year. Alongside thousands of my midwifery colleagues, who remain the backbone of the midwifery profession.