Registered nurse to midwife: 6 reasons to make the move (and how to do it)

Historically, the word ‘midwife’ meant ‘with woman’ (as you’re asking, it’s from the old Norse: ‘mid’ meaning ‘with’ and ‘wif’ meaning ‘woman’). So a midwife was a woman with another woman during her pregnancy. It was a crucial role in a community. Today, highly skilled midwives (of any gender) carry on that tradition – and are as important as ever. Being a midwife is a challenge, a privilege and a unique part of healthcare delivery. If you are a registered nurse (RN), you might well be considering your next career move, and becoming a midwife is definitely one to consider. After all, Australia’s rapidly increasing population equals more births and a greater demand for midwives – meaning there’s always available work as a midwife in Australia. So, let’s look at the why and how of moving from registered nurse to midwife.

6 reasons to become a midwife

6 reasons to become a midwife
  • Empower womenMidwifery is rooted in the principles of empowerment and autonomy. In giving women agency in the journey of their pregnancy. They will have their own preferences on treatment and the birthing process – and you will be an advocate for them to experience their pregnancy the way they want to. You’ll provide them with information (especially so they are aware of any risks) and seek ways to ensure their pregnancy is not just safe but also distinctly theirs. You help individuals navigate the complexities of pregnancy and childbirth with confidence and self-assurance. By fostering a close relationship with your clients, you give them the space to voice their needs, express their desires, and take an active role in shaping their childbirth experience. This sense of empowerment fosters trust, respect, and dignity. Midwifery is in many senses a collaboration and a process of shared decision-making.
  • Work with familiesThat process and those decisions are not simply between you and your client; they involve the whole family unit. Childbirth is transformative for everyone involved: partners, siblings, extended family. So you’ll create a nurturing and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued, supported, and empowered throughout the birthing journey. You’ll encourage family members to actively participate in the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum process, fostering stronger bonds and a sense of shared responsibility. And if a woman is going through their pregnancy alone, you will be a vital point of contact and emotional support for them.
  • Ensure continuity of careIn the public health system, midwives are the main health professionals who care for expectant women during labour and birth. Some hospitals offer a midwifery-led program and patients who are eligible for this service will see the same midwife or small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy which allows for continuity of care and better patient outcomes. This also fosters connection and trust. By providing support and guidance from preconception to postpartum, you develop a deep understanding of each individual’s needs, wants, preferences and health history. That means you can deliver truly personalised care. And with the trust this builds in the relationship, it also means a woman is likely to contact you with questions, queries and anything that doesn’t feel right. This means you can intervene early to ensure the best outcomes for each pregnancy. This model of continuity of care can have profound effects on your job satisfaction, as you can witness the transformative impact of their care on the lives of the families they serve.
  • Build relationshipsThe continuity of care model is one way of building close relationships with your clients. And that’s one of the most rewarding aspects of midwifery. That meaningful connection where you are collaborating to smooth this life-changing journey. There is nothing brief or transactional about the interactions you have with the woman under your care. You are accompanying them along the whole journey, and at each step, you come to understand them more. It’s a privilege to accompany individuals and their families on their journey to parenthood. The advice, guidance, reassurance and emotional support you can provide for them are essential to that journey. These strong bonds of trust and rapport not only enhance the quality of care but also enrich the childbirth experience.
  • Provide holistic careMidwifery is not just about attending to the physical aspects of pregnancy. It also takes in the emotional, psychological and even social dimensions of the experience. And it’s this holistic approach that makes for such a fulfilling experience for everyone involved: the pregnant woman, their family, and you as their midwife. You’ll come to understand a client’s unique background, values and preferences and tailor your care for them accordingly. You’ll develop cultural competency to deliver appropriate care for people taking into account aspects like their religious beliefs and community norms. This sense of caring for the whole person is what makes the midwife-client relationship so profound.
  • Continuously learn and growFirstly, it provides a career progression path that taps into your skills as a registered nurse. It also adds entirely new knowledge and processes of care to your skill set. Secondly, once you are practising as a midwife, every day there are new challenges and experiences that you will have. Your technical and soft skills will be called upon to meet the needs of different clients each having a unique experience. And thirdly, the industry is always evolving, with new theories and technologies coming to the fore. So you are continually learning and developing your professional abilities. Connecting with clients, challenging yourself, always learning and embracing opportunities for growth all add up to serious job satisfaction.
A midwife feels the stomach of a pregnant person while the baby is kicking

How to move from registered nurse to midwife

So, we’ve looked at some of the ‘whys’ of moving from registered nurse to midwife. Now, let’s explore the how.

Did you know that nursing and midwifery are classed as separate professions under Australian law? That means they have different education requirements, required knowledge, specific skills and also different practice standards, as well as different responsibilities within the healthcare system.

Which is where our Graduate Diploma of Midwifery comes in.

It’s a post-registration, professional entry degree for RNs like you. Our graduate diploma has a strong reputation for providing outstanding midwifery education across Australia. Our graduates are well regarded across the industry. It builds on the skills you already have but gives you the specific knowledge and aptitudes needed to practise midwifery. After all, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) accredits the degree. So you know it meets the highest industry standards and can seriously boost your career prospects. Just ask Tammy O’Connor.

“I studied a Bachelor of Nursing at Charles Sturt University and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to become a midwife. After graduating I worked as a registered nurse. I quickly enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Midwifery at Charles Sturt while working in the maternity unit as a student midwife. The uni gave me a great platform to learn in a safe environment. And it also provided a good stepping stone into my career.”

As Tammy mentioned, another benefit of our midwifery course is that it allows you to combine study and work. The knowledge modules are online, but you can also work as a student midwife at the same time. In this collaborative employment model, you practise the hands-on skills in a clinical environment. You bring value to your workplace – and get paid. So you can meet all your commitments. Win-win-win.

Moreover, thanks to the popularity of the course, we’re excited to offer additional Commonwealth supported places (CSP) into the course from 2024 to meet the demand for exceptional midwifery education. A CSP is a subsidised place, so your fees are lower. And it means you can apply for a HECS-HELP loan to pay for your studies. Plus, defer repayment until you earn above a certain amount.

Chat with our team of uni advisers to find out more and get all your questions answered.

NSW Government logo

Want to be recruited into a midwifery service in Australia’s largest healthcare system – before you graduate? Check out NSW Health’s MidStart program. Applications for 2025 are open from 21 May–3 June 2024. Learn more and apply.

NSW Health also has dedicated scholarships you can apply for.