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University midwifery societies: Support for student midwives, by student midwives

02 November 2016
5 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 11


Student midwives usually begin their programme of study feeling motivated and optimistic, but there is evidence to suggest the stressors of the programme are too much for some students, leading to attrition. Given the current shortage of midwives, additional strategies are required to support student midwives to successfully complete their studies and join the workforce. Student-led societies within universities can offer a support system. A student midwife at the University of Northampton, Ilaria Grzelak, realised that ‘traditional’ student societies would not meet the specific needs of student midwives, whose course involves not only academic demands but also the challenges of clinical practice. She decided to set up a society specifically for midwifery students, which continues to benefit her fellow student midwives.

On starting their programme of study, student midwives are generally highly motivated and optimistic about their journey into their chosen profession. However, there is evidence to suggest the personal, professional, academic and emotional stressors are too much for some students, which leads to attrition, estimated to be 20% in 2012 (Centre for Workforce Intelligence, 2012). With the existing shortfall in numbers of practising midwives (National Audit Office, 2013) and an imminent ‘retirement time bomb’ (Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 2015), it is clear that additional strategies must be put in place to support student midwives to successfully complete their studies and then join the existing workforce (Power, 2015).

Universities have support systems in place for all students, irrespective of their programme of study, including student-led societies. On beginning her programme of study at the University of Northampton, student midwife Ilaria Grzelak realised ‘traditional’ student societies would not meet the specific needs of student midwives, as their course not only has academic but also professional body demands that require student midwives to undertake clinical placements as well as attend university. She decided a midwifery-specific society was needed. Her observations concurred with literature which suggests peer support is a key factor in student midwives' achievement and successful completion of their programme of study (McIntosh et al, 2013).

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