Are you interested in becoming a midwife?
Midwifery is a growing career across the world. As more women choose a midwife to assist them throughout their pregnancies, childbirth, and post-partum days, the demand for certified midwives and nurse-midwives is growing.
Some women are drawn to a career in midwifery as an extension of their nursing degrees or jobs. Others come to the profession without prior medical education. If you are interested in becoming a midwife, there are many courses leading to degrees and designations in midwifery. However the most important skills may not be taught in a textbook or through online courses. Communication, empathy with patients, quick decision-making skills, and organization are essential skills for a successful midwifery practice.
Women who are pregnant often experience hormonal shifts that lead to enormous mood swings. The combination of hormones, morning sickness, and pregnancy brain (the term often used to describe forgetfulness during pregnancy) can make it difficult to focus on new information.
First time mothers and fathers have many questions regarding the medical aspects of what they are experiencing. The ability to answer sometimes difficult questions and explain complicated medical procedures in a clear manner is important.
One of the things midwives are commended for repeatedly by their patients is their willingness to ensure pregnant mothers understand what their bodies are going through.
A midwife must be skilled in assessing the best terminology and manner in which to share information with her patients.
Women of various backgrounds, education levels, and nationalities seek out midwives to birth their babies. Being able to communicate quickly and clearly with patients is an important skill to work on when becoming a midwife.
While communication skills are essential to sharing and teaching patients, a midwife must also be empathetic. One of the common complaints made about obstetricians, gynecologists, and other medical professionals are that they lack a good “bedside manner.” This refers to the soft skill of empathy, a crucial skill for anyone interested in becoming a midwife.
You may have mastered the formal training for midwifery, but if you lack empathy for your patient they will know it.
Empathy is “the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives,” according to The Freeweb Dictionary. People who display empathy are often described as warm, loving, friendly, and/or maternal.
Pregnancy can be a time of anxiety, fragility, and nervousness for new parents, and a midwife’s empathy can go a long way to calming a nervous mother-to-be, especially one who is in labor.
Decision Making Skills
A midwife may be the primary caregiver in a woman’s pregnancy. While everyone hopes for a low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancy and labor requiring little or no intervention, that is not always the case.
Midwives are fully accountable for the well-being of their patients (big and little!), and must be prepared to make important, and sometimes, quick decisions on behalf of others. Typical decisions may include:
- referring to a specialist during pregnancy for a pre-existing or new condition affecting the health of the mother and baby
- a fast decision during labor to move from home to hospital
- when to call an ambulance
A midwife must be confident in her ability to exercise quick decision-making skills based on her medical training and the situation at hand.
A midwife’s day can be long and unpredictable. Many midwives in North America operate in private practices, so in addition to seeing their patients and maintaining detailed records of visits, patient histories, and birth plans, midwives are responsible for the business aspect of their practices.
Some midwives work in collectives or with other types of birth attendants such as doulas or registered nurses. In Canada and the United States midwives’ salaries as employees are comparable to nurse-practitioners, while private practice midwives have a wide range of incomes.
Being able to juggle daily appointments, record-keeping, staying up-to-date with continuing education requirements, running a business, and above all, being on-call 24 hours a day for patients means midwives require great time-management skills.
Babies arrive all hours of the day or night, so always being prepared to attend a birth, and re-organize a day’s schedule is an essential skill of a midwife. Some of the continuing education and professional training for midwives include workshops on time management, record-keeping, and business organization skills.
Resources: Becoming a Midwife?
Canadian Association of Midwives
Midwifery Education Programs in Canada
International Conference of Midwives
Midwives Alliance of North America
American College of Nurse-Midwives
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