On the 5th of August 2009 I attended and educators forum, organised by the new Zealand College of Midwives. The principal focus was to brainstorm ideas about how government funding for formal midwifery postgraduate education could best be directed. This was an exciting day and one I had waited a long time to see.
Way way back in 1994 I embarked on a long process of self development. I was working at Balclutha Maternity as an LMC midwife and the new direct entry degree midwives were just graduating. I realised that my midwifery education had been a very long time ago, in a different time and a different country. I never went to college of University, in fact i left school when i was 15 years old with just enough qualifications to get into practice based Registered Nursing when I was 17. In 1994 I went to Polytech for the very first time and started papers towards a Bachelors Degree in Midwifery which I obtained in 1998. Around 2002 I started doing papers towards a Masters Degree in Midwifery. In 2004 when I became a midwifery lecturer my employer paid the remaining costs of my Degree but all the other study I did was self funded.
I could see that this was inequitable back then. Nurses at Balclutha were able to do a Masters Degree and have their education funded but the Clinical Training Agency. Local doctors too got funding from the government through this source but midwives did not have access to this funding, we had to pay for it ourselves.
Since 2007 the government have started to make small amounts of funding available to support continuing education for midwives. Making sure that this funding is dispersed equitably is a challenge. The midwifery workforce is about equally divided between those who are employed by a facility and those who are self employed and claim directly form the government. Funding needs to reach all midwives not just those who are employed by a District Health Board. First of all the Midwifery First Year of Practice programme began. This has provided a mentorship relationship for midwives who are newly graduated. In 2009 a new postgraduate course was funded for employed midwives who are caring for women with complex health problems. Now the CTA are looking at what they can offer to other groups of midwives, particularly rural midwives. The details have not been completed and however next year there will be further opportunities for midwives to engage in study without having to meet the whole cost of this themselves. Exciting times!!
Find out a bit more about midwifery education in New Zealand here