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New academic year, new challenges: Tips for student midwives to maintain momentum and motivation

02 October 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 10


At the start of the academic year, the physical signs of progression from one year to the next for student midwives include an additional stripe on an epaulette, a different coloured badge or perhaps a change of uniform. But what about emotional progression? If we think of learning as a continuum, a lifelong process of developing skills and knowledge, then the transition from one year to the next should be seamless. However, in the context of the pre-registration midwifery programme, each academic year places more complex demands on students in both theory and practice as they progress from concentrating on normality in year one, to altered health in year two, to leadership, consolidation of practice and preparation for qualification in year three.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code requires midwives to be ‘lifelong learners’, basing their practice on the best available evidence—an ethos that should be embedded from day one of midwifery training. After a summer break, returning to studies and the physical and emotional demands of the pre-registration midwifery programme can be daunting; this article will provide tips for students to maintain momentum and motivation as they progress to the next year of their studies.

The emotional and physical demands of the pre-registration midwifery programme should not be underestimated. A ‘traditional’ degree generally has a 26-week academic year; however, since student midwives are also studying for a professional qualification, the academic year is 45 weeks in duration, meaning that student midwives have less time to recharge their batteries and reflect on their learning and development before the start of the next academic year.

The role of the midwife in contemporary maternity services is ever more demanding due to staff shortages; an impending ‘retirement timebomb’, with 33% of midwives in their fifties and sixties (Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 2017:3); increasing birth rates and evermore complex cases to lead and coordinate (RCM, 2017). In a bid to explore why some midwives were leaving the profession, Hunter and Warren (2013) were commissioned by the RCM to research the concept of resilience in midwifery by seeking the views of senior midwives who self-reported as being able to ‘bounce back’ after a difficult shift. The study explored the traits and characteristics of resilience, with findings suggesting the need for more robust support systems to be put in place for practising midwives.

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