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The personal and professional importance of post-registration postgraduate education

02 February 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 2


The nature of both pre-registration and post-registration midwifery education has changed dramatically over the last two decades, being firmly established within academia and the higher education domain. Notwithstanding the changes to midwifery education, midwives' perceptions of post-registration education, and continual professional development in particular, are mixed. The terms professional training and post-registration education are used interchangeably despite representing different goals. This article will explore professional perceptions of the post-registration educational journey, the concept of further academic development for individual midwives through postgraduate study and how engagement of midwives in postgraduate study could benefit both individual midwives and the collective profession of midwifery.

The structure of midwifery education in the UK has changed dramatically over the last two decades, moving away from a predominantly practice-based apprenticeship model in a clinical setting, to being firmly established within academia and higher education (Thomas, 2007). The minimum academic level required to be registered as a midwife has also been raised, from a higher diploma to undergraduate degree level (Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), 2009). Successful students are awarded a Bachelor of Science (BSc) (Hons) in Midwifery and the professional qualification of Registered Midwife, having been judged by the Lead Midwife for Education to be fit to practise safely and effectively, and having demonstrated sound theoretical knowledge of midwifery.

Post-registration, midwives take control of their own learning and development by engaging in continuing professional development, an ongoing process of reflection and action. The requirement for continued learning post-registration is supported by revalidation, a process that all midwives in the UK must undergo in order to maintain their registration with the NMC. Part of revalidation is the requirement for midwives to undertake 35 hours of continuous professional development relevant to their scope of practice; and as a result, the level of academic study for post-registration postgraduate education has been raised to Master's (MSc) level. As a form of continuous professional development, a Master's degree is described as a second-cycle taught course, commonly taken by individuals who have an Honours degree or equivalent (Judge et al, 2005). Master's level education enables individuals to apply knowledge, to develop an understanding of how boundaries are advanced through research, and to manage complex issues systematically with self-direction, creativity and originality (Rushton and Lindsay, 2008). This article will explore the concept of postgraduate education for post-registration midwives from an individual perspective, as well as from the collective perspective of midwifery as a profession.

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