New Zealand midwifery education delivering a world class service

News News & events

05 Oct 2016

Following the recent release of the University of Otago’s retrospective study of birth outcomes, one of the issues raised in the subsequent media discussion has been the standards of midwifery education in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s leading midwifery educators are moving to reassure women and their families that the midwifery education model produces high calibre midwives who are well qualified to work within an integrated maternity service.

New Zealand Midwifery education is held up as a model of excellence internationally and the degree qualification meets the standards outlined by the International Confederation of Midwives.  

Professor Hannah Dahlen, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Western Sydney University is an internationally recognised expert on midwifery education.

“Having reviewed New Zealand curricula and spent time looking at the program of midwifery education in New Zealand I can only say that they are world leaders in this space,” she says. “In Australia we would love to have the amount of clinical experience and the variety of models the midwifery students in New Zealand experience.”

Midwives in New Zealand are educated through a bachelor’s degree that combines the best of academic and work-based approaches to education. Since 2009 the degree has been the equivalent of four years of undergraduate level study but is delivered over three extended academic years. The degree requires 4800 hours with all students completing a minimum of 2400 practice hours. The degree is strongly evidence-based and has significant scientific content.

In order to gain practice experience, students work with midwives in a broad range of maternity settings, working with both community based Lead Maternity Care midwives and hospital based midwives. Midwifery students spend a significant amount of time working in hospital in order to acquire competency in recognising deviations from the normal and working at the interface with other health professionals such as obstetricians and paediatricians to ensure that women and babies get specialist care when required.

“The programme provides midwifery students with all of the knowledge and skills they need to practice as specialists in normal childbirth and to provide safe care for women and their babies,” says Mary Kensington, Ara Co-head of Midwifery. “The programme content addresses working with women who may have pre-existing medical or surgical conditions and focuses on the collaborative aspects of this care including referral to medical colleagues. Students learn about emergency situations through simulation practice and workplace experience. This ensures that once qualified, the midwives can recognise and manage abnormal situations and make the appropriate referrals.”

The undergraduate midwifery degree programmes must meet the NZ Midwifery Council requirements and standards for practice and to prepare students to meet the NZMC competencies for registration as a midwife. The Midwifery Council, as the regulatory body for the profession, approves and accredits all midwifery degrees and undertakes ongoing monitoring and audits. Further scrutiny and accountability is additionally monitored through either the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or the Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP).

Once they have successfully completed their midwifery degrees, the students are eligible to sit the Midwifery Council national exam. The level of support by the profession then continues into their first year of practice, with the provision of the Midwifery First Year in Practice programme which is compulsory for all to complete regardless of where they are working.

Once qualified there are many educational opportunities for postgraduate study that can be accessed by midwives in order to continue their professional development. Health Workforce New Zealand provides funding for successful applications.

As educators, we are confident that the New Zealand public can be assured by the quality of the midwifery graduates and the services provided to women and their families. New Zealand’s successful midwifery model is underpinned by a pre-registration education model that produces competent, confident midwives able to work across the scope of practice on their own responsibility.

On behalf of:

Mary Kensington, Lorna Davies, Dr. Rea Daellenbach: - School of Midwifery, Ara Institute of Canterbury

Dr. Judith McCara-Couper: - School of Midwifery, AUT University

Liz James: - Centre for Health & Social Practice, Wintec

Dr. Robyn Maude, Dr. Kathy Holloway, Dr. Kathy Nelson: - Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Victoria University

Dr. Sally Baddock, Dr. Jean Patterson, Christine Griffiths: - School of Midwifery, Otago Polytechnic