The launch of a range of new midwifery initiatives is a step in the right direction for a workforce that is stretched to breaking point in some regions of Aotearoa.
“Currently, there are more midwives with annual practicing certificates (APCs) than ever before,” says Chief Executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives, Alison Eddy, “yet every DHB in Aotearoa is struggling to staff their facilities. What this tells us is midwives still want to practise, but their working conditions are unsustainable.”
The initiatives, announced today by the Associate Minister of Health, include funding for a new midwife clinical coach role within maternity facilities. Senior midwives appointed in these roles will provide additional support to colleagues, (including midwives who may be new to the service area, or new graduate midwives), as well as acting in a supervisory capacity for midwives who are renewing their practicing certificates after taking a break.
“Midwives re-entering the workforce are required to engage in a formal return to practice programme set by the Midwifery Council,” explains Ms Eddy.
“Historically, these midwives have been expected to cover the costs of their own professional supervision. Having this cost now covered by the role of the funded clinical coaches could make all the difference. We need to reduce the barriers for midwives wishing to re-enter the workforce and this initiative is a great way to support them.”
Retention of midwives within the workforce is paramount, says Ms Eddy, who welcomes today’s announcement, explaining the College has long been advocating for improved working conditions for midwives.
“Whilst this development isn’t a fix-all, it’s certainly encouraging. Our workforce is highly-skilled, having received world-renowned midwifery education and training. But until midwives are better supported with the right working conditions to enable them to deliver the gold-standard care they aspire to provide, we will continue to see midwives leaving the profession,” she says.
In addition to the creation of the clinical coach role, the new initiatives will include funding to reduce the financial burden associated with other return to practice costs, such as additional education and training requirements.