• 13 May 2021
  • 9 min read

Comparing Nursing With Midwifery - Choosing The Right Career Path

  • Brenda Walcott
    Adult Nurse & Midwife
    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
    • Shakilah Millian
  • 0
  • 377
"Midwifery theory is based on pregnancy as a normal physiological process to be experienced in a positive way. Nursing has an approach that is similar to medicine: problem-solving."

Covid has created a surge in interest in healthcare jobs. Nursing and Midwifery are popular career choices in 2021. If you’re trying to choose between them, Brenda explains the key differences.

Topics Covered In This Article

Direct Entry Into Midwifery

Midwifery - Balancing Clinical Needs With Natural Process

The 6 Qualities That Make A Good Midwife

Nursing Is A Broader Career Pathway Than Midwifery

Midwives Are There At Each Stage Of Pregnancy

Routes Into Nursing And Midwifery

How To Get The Qualifications You Need To Studying Nursing Or Midwifery Degrees

No Need To Choose Between Nursing Or Midwifery Now!

Direct Entry Into Midwifery

Some thirty-five plus years ago the main route into midwifery was as a Registered Nurse going on to specialise in midwifery.

This was until 1987, when the study into (barriers to implementing) direct entry midwifery training, was commissioned by the English National Board.

During this study (Published in 1993) by the Department of Educational Studies of the University of Surrey to inform the implementation of the course of study and determine the required duration and the curriculum development it was noted that the description of the (non-nursing) midwifery course as a “Direct Entry” training course carried a negative connotation.

And the term “Three Year” midwifery training was suggested as a more acceptable description.

Fast forward to 2021 and there are more than 50 major Universities in the United Kingdom offering a direct entry (three year) degree in midwifery compared to early 1987 when only one institution offered this course to people who were not nurses.

Midwifery - Balancing Clinical Needs With Natural Process

I still hear people express strong opinions about the idea that the midwives who enter midwifery training without a nursing back ground are less capable than midwives with a nursing background.

However midwifery theory is based on the fact that pregnancy is a normal physiological process that women should be supported and empowered to experience in a positive way.

Nursing, however, has an approach that is similar to medicine: that is, problem-solving.

So with more women experiencing complications in pregnancy due to delaying childbearing to later on in life in order to pursue and/or establish a career, or other lifestyle factors such as obesity and sedentary life style, the dichotomy of complicated versus uncomplicated pregnancy is addressed by having a consultant led unit and a Midwife led unit within the maternity department.

There is also the opportunity for birthing at home for women with a low risk or uncomplicated pregnancy. It is in this environment that the nurse-midwife would be more rounded in overall experience in caring for both groups of women.

However over time the direct entry Midwife becomes experienced with the various complications that can occur in pregnancy due to underlying morbidity or complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia that occurs due to the pregnancy.

The 6 Qualities That Make A Good Midwife

So what are some of the personal qualities that may indicate that midwifery could be a good career choice for someone?

Here is a list (in my opinion) of the top 6 qualities you need to be a good Midwife:

● excellent communication skills (with an emphasis on listening)

● nurturing

● non-judgemental (impartial and respectful) approach

● advocacy

● patience

● calmness

Nursing Is A Broader Career Pathway Than Midwifery

General nursing is a much broader career pathway compared with midwifery.

Some of the main types of nursing include:

● Adult Nursing - (Adult Nurse Career Guide)

● Children’s Nursing (Children's Nurse Career Guide)

● Mental Health Nursing (RMN Career Guide)

● Learning Disability Nursing (RNLD Career Guide)

There are also many specialist areas in nursing including Diabetes Specialist, Oncology, Orthopaedic, Dialysis and dermatology, to name a few.

Some specialisms within midwifery include the Diabetes Specialist Midwife, Breast Feeding Lead Midwife, Antenatal Screening Midwife, Risk Management Midwife and the PDM Midwife (Professional Development Midwife who manage and facilitate on-going professional developmental and mandatory training for staff involve in maternity care).

Midwives Are There At Each Stage Of Pregnancy

Midwives’ work involves the care of childbearing women from the time they contact the NHS to get booked for care in pregnancy to up to 2 weeks after the birth of one or more babies.

The booking interview and assessment is undertaken by the midwife who arranges all the blood tests and scans that the woman will need throughout the pregnancy.

Throughout the pregnancy the women are seen almost monthly by the antenatal Midwife.

The Midwife checks the foetus is growing well and that the woman is keeping well.

They also provide advice and support as needed at each stage of the pregnancy.

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During labour and birth and the postnatal period the woman and her family continue to be supported by midwives who guide them through pain management options in labour, coach them through the birthing process and support bonding and breastfeeding in the postnatal period.

See this article where Louisa talks about continuity of care in midwifery as being one of the 5 things she loves most about her job.

Routes Into Nursing And Midwifery

For both nursing and midwifery there is great demand for more staff globally and there are many different routes into these healthcare roles.

There is now the possibility to commence an apprenticeship in nursing as well as an apprenticeship degree in midwifery.

But what about your very first steps. I mean, if you are someone is still in high school and thinking of becoming a nurse or considering becoming a midwife there is the option to seek a work experience placement in the hospital in the area or nursing or midwifery that is of interest.

After completing high school or even college the option of working as a Healthcare Assistant may also help confirm (or not confirm, as the case may be) whether the career choice was the right pathway for the candidate.

You may also find this article useful, it’s by a Student Nurse who is also a Healthcare Assistant: ‘I’m A Healthcare Assistant Studying Nursing - Here’s What I Know’.

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Are you trying to choose between nursing and midwifery?

Ask Brenda any questions below

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There are many healthcare support roles available in hospitals and the community that can help provide a taster for the nursing or midwifery role/career of interest.

There are job opportunities for Maternity Support Workers that can provide exposure and insight into midwifery.

There is of course the option to volunteer in the NHS as a way of gaining insights into these healthcare careers.

And there is even a Nurse Associate Degree course that may be a route into nursing.

The Nursing Associate would need to do a short course to obtain a degree in nursing to get a full Registered Nurse qualification in order to undertake the full range of duties of the Registered Nurse.

Nursing Associates are regulated by the NMC - just as Registered Nurses are (read this article about Nursing Associate programmes becoming a stepping stone for nursing students).

This course usually lasts 2 years and may be accessed directly via a university (self-funded) or via an NMC-approved apprenticeship program that allows you to work and earn while studying.

Nursing, like midwifery, requires critical thinking skills and the ability to work well in a team.

Nurse training courses prepare the student for these careers and require resilience and perseverance - so it’s always wise to get a taster for the job before committing to the degree course.

How To Get The Qualifications You Need To Studying Nursing Or Midwifery Degrees

There are various (Higher Education) access courses that may provide the qualifications required to be accepted into a nursing or midwifery degree program of study if someone does not have the minimum five GCSEs and two A – Levels.

Higher Education (HE) access courses/qualifications that may be acceptable include OCR Health and Social Care, Level 3 EDEXCEL Foundation (BTEC) National Diploma course, or GNVQ.

Learn Direct and Open University and many local colleges provide these HE access courses.

The candidate with the required 5 GCSEs (at grade A-C and including English and maths or a science subject) and two A-level subjects would usually apply via UCAS to study at one of their top three choices of universities.

A candidate for nursing or midwifery who already has a first degree may not be required to have the A–level subjects and depending on the type of degree may even get credit for prior learning.

Registered Nurses who wish to become midwives usually need less than 2 years additional training to qualify as a Midwife.

No Need To Choose Between Nursing Or Midwifery Now!

Both nursing and midwifery roles are very rewarding and worthwhile career choices with a very high demand for more trained staff both nationally and internationally.

In my experience I started my training in midwifery a year after qualifying as a nurse because my nursing practice placement on the maternity ward was so inspirational.

And now I enjoy the flexibility of working in either role that I choose.

So, you don’t have to choose now; you can do one and train and learn the skills for the other route later on in your career.

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Are you trying to choose between nursing and midwifery?

Ask Brenda any questions below

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About the author

  • Brenda Walcott
    Adult Nurse & Midwife

I work as a Midwife and an Adult Nurse. My current role is in a community hospital that specialises in rehabilitation of adult patients who have become dependent. My Adult Nursing career spans over 20 years to include Adult, Medical, Surgical Nursing. My special interests include women's health, diabetes, public health and Midwifery.

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  • Brenda Walcott
    Adult Nurse & Midwife

About the author

  • Brenda Walcott
    Adult Nurse & Midwife

I work as a Midwife and an Adult Nurse. My current role is in a community hospital that specialises in rehabilitation of adult patients who have become dependent. My Adult Nursing career spans over 20 years to include Adult, Medical, Surgical Nursing. My special interests include women's health, diabetes, public health and Midwifery.

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