If someone asked you what the new NMC education standards mean for midwives training in 2019 and beyond, would you know how to answer?
Or would you think ‘I should know this, I care!’
Maybe you’ve had a look at the new Nursing and Midwifery Council guidelines on education and gone ‘ack, complicated, what?’
When you see 19 separate guidelines on practice supervision in corporate speak on the NMC website, it’s easy to get demoralised.
But it’s actually pretty straightforward.
In this post I’ll set out what you need to know in easy terms and with some of my informed opinions sprinkled in, ‘cos it’s my blog : )
You can also watch the video if that's easier.
In 2017, the NMC ran a consultation on education standards that midwives could add their opinions to. There have been panels and independent evaluation groups at the NMC looking at changing and improving education for midwifery since then.
The NMC have said several times that new education standards for midwives are needed because the world is changing, women’s lives are different and midwives have a more demanding role and skill set than ever before. Events like those at Morecambe Bay will likely have been a reason for the new standards too.
These standards will be rolled out from winter 2019.
The changes that stood out to me are as follows:
Care simulation hours will no longer be capped. Unis will be able to have their students spend more time in skills labs if this is what they feel is best. Students tend to value these sessions, so as long as simulated practice doesn’t outweigh real practice, this sounds like a good thing to me.
The NMC will also be adopting prescribing guidelines from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which sounds fine. Midwives have stringent rules around prescribing anyway since unlike nurses, they can prescribe pretty much from qualification, so I can’t imagine this will be too different. Interestingly nurses will also be able to prescribe as soon as they’re qualified too when previously they had to wait three years to apply.
But the most important change for me is that clinical mentors will no longer be a thing.
In the past, student midwives has ‘personal tutors’ doing the academic side of things and ‘sign off mentors’ who they had to work with 40% of the time in clinical practice.
Under the new standards instead of these there will now be:
These two staff members will collaborate on how students are doing and together recommend that students should progress to the next stage of the course (or not) .
This is an interesting change because students don’t have to work with one key mentor as much.
Instead they can work with ‘Practice Supervisors’ who can be any staff member regulated by the NMC. ‘Practice Supervisors’ might be newly qualified midwives, paediatric nurses, basically anyone with good skills to teach students. The new standards mean anyone regulated can muck in with teaching.
Practice Assessors will collate feedback from Practice Supervisors.
It’s my conjecture that students will get to work with more people and there will be more flexibility about teaching in placements. The same standards or higher will apply and unis and placements will be able to organise themselves as they see fit.
This might mean more student midwives can be trained, which is what the government wants and the country needs.
It also might mean nothing changes in some places. Students will continue to primarily work with sign off mentors just under the new name of ‘practice assessors’.
I’m very capable of criticising the NMC when necessary (see my series of posts from when Independent Midwives weren’t allowed to practice), but for me, in terms of the new education standards, it looks like there’s potential for students to get an amazing level of education.
Of course, this is all up to universities and trusts.
It also means as a newly qualified midwife you may end up having a student with you much sooner.
This could be a problem, we don’t want the blind leading the blind. But the newly qualified midwives I’ve met are up to date with the research and have a ‘third eye’ of hyper vigilance in terms of accountability and asking for help. They may also get how to teach students midwifery skills since they’ve had recent experience of being students themselves.
The only issue is continuity. With ‘Better Births’ being implemented around the country to achieve continuity for women, with all the benefits and satisfaction that seeing one midwife provides, I can understand why many are wary of taking continuity of mentorship away from students.
But I think there’s always been a need for students to find their own mentors to help nurture them through their career.
The midwives who formed me most didn’t necessarily mentor me, I was won over watching their practice or reading their books or online comments. I made contact at conferences or found out about their work through groups like the Association of Radical Midwives.
Often it was all to do with the emotional wellbeing of women and how they made them feel, though of course epic clinical skills are vital to underpin this.
It’s also this group of informal mentors that I learnt midwifery intuition from : )
Under the new NMC education guidelines, it might be even more important to seek this kind of mentorship out for yourself.
Once you’ve read this through, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment letting me know:
1. How do you think the new NMC education standards will impact you?
2. Do you have a midwifery role model? How did you meet them or learn from them – how would you suggest a student or newly qualified midwife find such a person?