First students graduate from innovative midwifery course

Sixteen nurses have become the first cohort to graduate from an innovative midwifery pilot programme.

The University of the Highlands and Islands’ shortened midwifery programme was launched in January 2019 to help meet the needs of communities across the north of Scotland. The postgraduate diploma, developed in partnership with NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland, was designed to enable registered nurses to become fully qualified midwives in 20 months. The first cohort of students finished their studies at the end of August and the final cohort will complete the course next summer.

The students learned through a combination of face-to-face classes at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness, online study via the university’s virtual learning environment and placements with NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, NHS Orkney and NHS Grampian, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and NHS Fife, in urban, remote and rural island-practice areas.

They also assisted during the coronavirus pandemic by starting their final placements early to support the NHS workforce.

The university’s department of nursing and midwifery celebrated the students’ final day with a special virtual event on Friday 28 August. The event included messages of support from Professor Annetta Smith, Head of the department of nursing and midwifery, heads of midwifery and nurse directors of NHS Highland, Western Isles and NHS Orkney, and farewell songs by Joanne Murray-Stewart, an award winning Gaelic singer and midwife, who also sang on the first day of the course in January 2019.

Caitlin Murray (28) from Peebles, is one of the students who completed the course. She said:

“The last 20 months have been a rollercoaster of a journey which has seen me in five different health boards for placement. I believe this insight into midwifery care in different areas of Scotland will put me and my classmates at huge advantage moving into our career as we have learnt to adapt to various ways of working and picking up on valuable skills. My last placement has seen me back in my community placement of Skye which has been amazing. I am very grateful to the university for giving me a place on the course as you have helped me achieve my dream of qualifying as midwife. I will soon be beginning a full-time midwifery position with the community team in Fort William.”

Mary Burnside, Deputy Director of Midwifery in NHS Highland said:

“We are delighted to see newly qualified midwives graduate in Highland from the 20-month programme and look forward to welcoming them to the NHS Highland maternity services team.”

Wendy Jessiman, the university’s Lead Midwife for Education, said:

“As the only shortened programme in Scotland, we are delighted that all students finishing the programme will be employed in NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles and NHS Orkney. The variety of placements and support from the Boards and midwives across Scotland has prepared students to provide excellent midwifery care in remote, rural, urban and island contexts. We wish them all well in their midwifery careers.”