Is Midwifery Harder than Nursing?

Breeze Academy November 30, 2022
Female nurse in green scrubs

There is no doubt that both nurses and midwives are essential parts of the healthcare system in the UK, and that both careers currently face unprecedented challenges, but is one career harder than the other? In this blog we look into whether or not midwifery is harder than nursing in the UK to help prospective nurses and midwives make an informed career decision.

So, is midwifery harder than nursing in the UK? Arguably, midwifery courses are harder to get into than nursing courses. However, midwives and nurses both face exceptional challenges which make their day to day lives difficult, and it’s hard to say which career is harder. Both face exhaustion, budget, resource and staffing cuts, abuse, hospital politics, & more.

Read on to learn more about the challenges faced by nurses and midwives in the UK.

Is Midwifery a Harder Specialism than Nursing?

Some do consider midwifery a harder specialism than nursing, however it’s a very subjective topic and many would argue that both specialisms are equally difficult in different ways. If you’re considering a career in midwifery or nursing, we’ve outlined just a few ways in which each career is considered difficult. 

Common reasons as to why midwifery is considered difficult includes:

  • Physical exhaustion from a labour-intensive job (no pun intended!)
  • Mental exhaustion - midwives are emotionally pushed to their limits; it’s not all sunshine and roses and not every ending is a happy one in maternity
  • Staff shortages
  • Increased number of births
  • Complexity of cases is increasing

Meanwhile, reasons why nursing is considered difficult includes:

  • Physical exhaustion from a very manual job over long hours
  • Mental exhaustion - nurses work with a wide variety of patients and not all cases end well
  • Physical and verbal abuse
  • Limitations with technology, equipment and other resources
  • Hospital politics
  • Staff shortages

It’s also important to consider the scope of each role and how that impacts the perceived difficulty of the role. For example, midwives must be trained in a wide range of pregnancy and labour scenarios from simple, uncomplicated vaginal births, through to C-sections. However, their scope is limited to just pregnancy, labour and delivery.

Meanwhile, nurses are more generally trained until a point where they choose to specialise (gain an in-depth look at the various nursing specialisms in our recent blog, What are the 4 Specialisms in Nursing?). Until this time, the scope of their role means that they work with patients suffering from all manner of conditions across all 4 specialisms to which they need to be prepared for, or have the ability to learn on the job. 

Are Midwifery Courses Harder than Nursing?

Until 1987, the only way into midwifery was as a Registered Nurse going on to specialise in midwifery. However, these days, students can become a midwife via a three-year direct entry degree from one of 50+ universities across the UK.

Arguably, one of the reasons why some consider midwifery courses to be harder than nursing courses is that student midwives are lumbered with the outdated ideology that midwives who enter midwifery training without a nursing background are less capable than midwives with a nursing background.

But that’s only one way in which midwifery degrees are harder; midwifery degrees are considerably harder to get onto than the average degree with just a 1 in 10 chance of acceptance. From here, midwifery courses are known to be extraordinarily demanding, with long hours and a high workload for three years (this includes ongoing placements). 

That being said, a nursing degree is no walk in the park and is also relatively difficult to get onto; most universities will have just one nursing degree on offer and only around 100 spaces. But, once accepted, nursing students have to be prepared for a lot of solo study time, filling in the gaps that aren’t taught during lectures, whilst also working on placement.

Prospective nurses also have a range of different entry routes into the career, which could make things easier for students. For example, nursing apprenticeships exist, as well as the Nursing Associate Programme which is a great stepping stone for those that don’t quite meet the entry requirements of a traditional level 6 degree. Learn more about routes into nursing in our blog Can You Become a Nurse Without Going to University?

How Hard is it to Progress in Midwifery and Nursing?

With tighter budgets, staff shortages and a struggle for resources, many nurses in particular are reporting feeling neglected when it comes to their professional development. But, there are ways, many of which include a pro-active approach. For example:

  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Ask for what you want
  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities that help you work towards your goal
  • Do research into your desired outcome
  • Take part in self-directed learning or, where possible, CPD courses and activities

After taking ownership of their careers in such ways, midwives and nurses could see their careers progressing as follows:

Progression in Nursing

Newly qualified nurses begin at Band 5, usually within a hospital setting, before choosing a specialism and moving on to Band 6. After a few years working at Band 6, nurses can progress to Band 7 as an Advanced Nurse or Nurse Practitioner, although this usually requires a master’s degree or equivalent. From here, nurses can progress to Band 8 as a Chief Nurse, and onto Band 9 as a Consultant Nurse. 

Progression in Midwifery

Newly qualified midwives will typically begin at Band 5 and work through salary bands similar to those in Nursing. After a few years at Band 5, midwives may then specialise in:

  • Antenatal screening
  • Breastfeeding advice
  • Home birthing
  • Intensive care neonatal units
  • Labour ward supervision
  • Parenting education
  • Public health
  • Ultrasound and foetal medicine.

Of course, midwives can also go on to train as nurses and nurses can specialise in midwifery as part of their progression. 

CPD for Nurses and Midwives at Breeze Academy

Both nursing and midwifery are exceptionally difficult jobs, particularly considering the current challenges facing the NHS. But, Breeze Academy is here to make learning and progression a little bit easier with a range of both beginner and advanced CPD courses running in cities across the UK. Whether you’re interested in introducing Acupuncture and Dry Needling or Massage Therapy to your everyday practice, we have the tools to help you succeed. Take a look at our range of courses online today.

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