Call the midwife: new degree delivers rural support for local mums
Expectant mothers in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and northern regions will benefit from greater access to specialist midwifery care, as the University of South Australia introduces the Bachelor of Midwifery at its Whyalla campus from 2023.
The new offering will significantly bolster the regional midwifery workforce, providing much-needed local supports to rural communities.
In Australia, there is a maldistribution of midwives in rural and regional areas with unfilled vacancies and difficulties recruiting adding to workforce shortages.
UniSA’s Bachelor of Midwifery Program Director, Dr Angela Brown, says that the Whyalla-based degree will attract and retain a local midwifery workforce.
“Regional communities need local midwives who can provide quality healthcare for mothers and families,” Dr Brown says.
“Time and time again we hear of mothers travelling long distances to access maternity services – sometimes for urgent care, but often several weeks ahead of their baby’s due date to ensure they have appropriate care when their baby is born – and we know that this can be very stressful for women and families alike.
“The new midwifery degree at Whyalla will enhance availability of training locally for regional students, providing additional locally trained staff that can work regionally and improve midwifery shortages.
“Students will be working in partnership with staff in the Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network (FUNLHN), so they’ll gain clinical knowledge and hands on experience from highly skilled regional midwives already working in our local antenatal, birthing, and postnatal models of care.
“Access to the midwifery degree at Whyalla will enhance and complement current midwifery services in regional South Australia.”
Whyalla midwifery students will also participate in UniSA’s unique Continuity of Care Experience (CoCE), where student midwives are paired with pregnant women to provide supervised care throughout the pregnancy, birth, and post-natal period. Here, students are directly involved in a minimum of 30 births during their studies and participate in the pre- and post-birth care of many more women.
Lyndell Eckert, Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Whyalla Hospital says the new degree is a welcomed addition to current regional health services.
“Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network looks forward to working in partnership with UniSA as they embark upon this new and exciting locally delivered Midwifery degree,” Eckert says.
“Midwifery training that’s closer to home for regional students will be an asset to recruiting and retaining locally trained midwives and continuing our midwifery services for women in our community.
“New midwives would then be well placed to gain employment in the FUNLHN in our Aboriginal Birthing Programs, at the Port Augusta Hospital or in the Whyalla Midwifery Group Practice.”
Health and Wellbeing Minister Chris Picton says the new degree opens new opportunities for regional students.
“Midwives play an important role in the backbone of our health system and it is vital we provide opportunities to regional students to help their local communities,” Minister Picton says.
“Having this new degree on offer will establish an attractive new pathway, allowing future midwives to kickstart their health career and complete their studies and training in the Upper Spencer Gulf.
“This will deliver a much-needed boost for future mothers and their families to have local care, developing the next generation of midwives and addressing workforce challenges for the region.”