Midwifery assistants support midwives in providing maternity care for low-risk women. Primarily, midwifery assistants are employed by direct-entry midwives to assist in birth centres or in a private home setting with prenatal, labour and birth and postpartum care. Midwifery assistants must be able to assess vital signs, react calmly and appropriately in an emergency and maintain client confidentiality. Some midwifery assistants are registered nurses (RNs), while others are trained on-the-job. To become a midwifery assistant, contact local direct-entry or birth centre midwives to find out what qualifications they requires of their assistants.
Midwifery assistants provide essential support to the midwife and the birthing family. While all tasks are not medical in nature, midwifery assistants must be comfortable with blood and other bodily fluids. The particular tasks required of a midwifery assistant will depend upon the preferences of the attending midwife, but all midwifery assistants should be trained to asses vital assessments of mother and baby, provide physical support for both the midwife and the mother, contact EMS in an emergency, maintain documentation for all prenatal appointments and births, interact with family members in a discreet and kind manner and maintain client confidentiality.
Midwifery assistant training programs are offered in many different institutions of midwifery education, and cover topics such as sterile technique, basic anatomy and physiology, epidemiology, charting, oxygen use and client and neonatal care. Advanced midwifery topics such as intravenous (IV) therapy and venepuncture might be covered as well, and most training programs require that the student midwifery assistant be certified in basic life support (BLS). The length of the training depends upon the institution but can range from two to nine days but often require self-study of specific midwifery texts or independent assignments outside of the training days. Midwifery assistant training programs offer a certificate upon completion of the course requirements.
Some midwives prefer that their midwifery assistants receive their training on-the-job, either from another midwifery assistant or from the midwife. On-the-job training covers much of the same hands-on skills that a more formal midwifery assistant training program would but the academic topics might be self-study. An apprentice midwifery assistant typically begins her studies as an observer who does not actively participate in client care and then gradually assumes more responsibilities as she is ready.
Working conditions for a midwifery assistant depend upon the venue in which she works. A busy birth centre might require two or three prenatal clinic days a week during which the midwifery assistant triages and intakes clients to see the midwife. In addition to clinic days, a birth centre midwifery assistant would also have on-call times where she would need to be available to assist at any births that occur during those times. If the midwifery assistant works for a home birth midwife, then her working hours would depend upon how busy the midwife's practice is. Midwifery assistants can expect to work unexpectedly long hours because of the unpredictable nature of birth work.
Salary and Outlook
Salary ranges for midwifery assistants depend upon the midwife's practice and the experience of the assistant. Additionally, salary expectations are dependent upon the region in which a midwife practices. Many midwives offer their assistant a flat fee for births and an hourly wage for prenatal clinic days. The outlook for midwifery assistants is regional and depends upon the climate and politics of direct-entry midwifery in your area.