Reversing the dire shortage of well-educated midwives underpins the University of Technology, Sydney's decision to offer a Bachelor of Midwifery for the first time in NSW to prospective students next year.
Graduates from the course will readily find employment opportunities throughout Australia, particularly in rural and regional areas where the shortage of midwives is felt most keenly.
The education will allow graduates to choose whether to work independently or as a member of a team in birth centres and hospital maternity units. Supervised practical training begins in the first year with students partnering with a mother-to-be throughout her pregnancy, labour and post-natal care.
UTS Dean of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Professor Jill White said the career of a midwife offered many benefits - ready employment here and overseas being one, but also in terms of gaining enormous job satisfaction.
This course allows students to become midwives without doing a nursing degree first,' Professor White said. 'It means people who are particularly interested in working in maternity care, as opposed to general health care, can now fast track their career by several years.'
'UTS will continue to provide its Graduate Diploma in Midwifery, however, midwifery education in England and New Zealand has shown that bachelor degrees in Midwifery are now the preferred avenue for education.'
Professor White said research demonstrated that midwifery care is an effective, safe and preferred option for caring for women in childbirth.
'In New Zealand more than 70 percent women now choose a midwife as their preferred primary provider of health care during pregnancy and birth,' she said.
'What the new course means for NSW is that we will have the ability to develop different models of care delivery and increase the choices available to pregnant women.
'This is something UTS has been working towards for three years - first undertaking research to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of this model of care and then working with the Midwives Association to lobby for legislative change. We have succeeded in the latter and the new State Nurses and Midwives Act has enabled direct entry midwifery to become a reality in NSW.'
Royal Hospital for Women Delivery Suite Midwife Susan Brandrick said her experience of direct entry midwifery education in England had definitely offered advantages in her career.
'Midwifery has a very special philosophy in how we provide care to healthy women, which is sometimes quite different to how we approach health care as a nurse,' Susan said.
'Being able to spend three years completely focused on such a specialised area was brilliant, rather than a full nursing degree and only one year of study focused on midwifery.
Ms Brandrick said she thinks the new degree will encourage more people to study midwifery, especially mature aged students.
'During my degree in the UK I was the only school leaver in the course, the rest were mature age students who were keen to be qualified midwives, but who would not be prepared to juggle family responsibilities and a four year degree. A three year highly specialised degree was much more appealing to them; hopefully we will experience the same thing in Australia,' Ms Brandrick said.