Experiences and expectations of student midwives entering the final year of their programme of study
Although theoretical assessment is linear throughout the pre-registration midwifery programme, anecdotal evidence suggests there is a disproportionate increase in student midwives' expectations as they enter their third year of study, knowing they are closer to qualification and the associated responsibilities of autonomous practice. The Nursing and Midwifery Council states that pre-registration midwifery programmes must be at least 3 years or the equivalent to 156 weeks full-time, but there is anecdotal evidence of a culture of expectation that students should be proficient from the start of their third year. This article explores the experiences and expectations of student midwives who have just commenced their final year of training and—in the context of a rising birth rate, increasing workloads and staff shortages—consider how they can be best supported by education and placement providers to successfully complete their studies and ultimately be admitted to the register.
‘You're a third year now…’ is a phrase frequently cited as a reminder that student midwives in their final year of the pre-registration programme are on a ‘countdown’ to qualification, and the associated responsibilities of autonomous practice.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC, 2009: 21) Standards for pre-registration midwifery education state that ‘student midwives must be proficient in all NMC Standards by the end of their training in order to practise safely and effectively without the need for direct supervision. The standards are divided into four domains:
The standards also state that pre-registration midwifery programmes must be at least 3 years, or the equivalent to 156 weeks full-time. However, anecdotal evidence of students' experiences suggests that there is a culture of expectation that they should be proficient from the start of year 3, even though they are only two thirds of the way through their training. While this expec tation may be viewed positively, in that men tors are confident in their students' abil ities, it is important that students feel supported if they either per ceive a task to be outside of their sphere of practice or do not feel confident and com petent to under take it, without the fear of recrim ination. With England alone currently facing a deficit of nearly 3500 midwives, the recent Royal College of Midwives (RCM, 2016) survey on why midwives leave is uncom fortable reading. The top five reasons given in the survey for midwives leaving the profession were:
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