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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Excellent job prospects for midwives

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

With more funding from the provincial government just announced, the number of midwives practising in Ontario will jump this year to 325 from 270.
Registered midwife, Kathy Penczak from Community Midwives of Brantford, holds Willow Raines, who was born with her assistance in July 2002.

The extra $7 million from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care pleases Association of Ontario Midwives president Elana Johnson to no end.

"We need more and more midwives," Johnson says.

She may get her wish. As well as the funding Health Minister George Smitherman announced Aug. 13, fewer general practitioners are delivering babies and the growing number of obstetricians heading into retirement will likely fuel the demand for more midwives, as will attrition. Johnson says the departure of midwives from the profession is already a concern.

Ryerson University

There's only one school in Toronto with a midwifery program -- Ryerson University. Judy Rogers, director of the program at Ryerson, says the university accepts about 20 students a year into the part-time program from 100 applicants. Because many of the women who enrol work, they have up to seven years to finish the course, Rogers says, although it can be completed in four.

In the next two years Ryerson is planning to introduce a full-time midwifery program in addition to the part-time course, she adds.

Midwifery isn't for everyone, Rogers emphasizes. Often, applicants don't realize the level of responsibility and difficulty they face. "They may come to our information nights very starry-eyed because (they say) 'I love babies,' " Rogers says.

But that's not enough. There is the practical matter of studying anatomy and physiology, to start with, and five three-month clinical placements to complete working with a qualified midwife on actual births.
Elana Johnson
President of the Association of Ontario Midwives

Rogers says the reasons why women become midwives -- and midwifery in Canada is an all-female profession, although in The Netherlands, for example, there are male midwives -- are as varied as the women themselves.

But, she says, some "strong themes" occur over and over: students are interested in women's health; they view childbirth as something positive and natural; and they have a sense of social justice.

Jenni Huntly and Kara Brockington share all of those attributes. Huntly, a third-year student at Ryerson, says she enrolled in midwifery "because I'm very interested in women's health" and because the profession addresses the political issues in women's health. "Yes, initially, it was a political decision," she says.

Felt 'managed'

Brockington -- who in mid-August had been a midwife for just a month, but had already delivered eight babies -- says she started thinking about midwifery after the birth of her first child. She says she wasn't disillusioned by the experience so much as she felt "managed" and not entirely a part of it. That, and her activist background -- not in women's health but race relations -- led her to the Ryerson program.
  • The Ryerson University midwifery program is the only one in the GTA.
  • Students have up to seven years to complete the part-time course.
  • A high school diploma is required and one year of university is recommended.
  • Starting salaries for new midwives are $55,000 a year.
  • Employment in the profession for new graduates is 100% although where they may practise is limited.
  • Midwives are self-employed contract workers paid by the Ministry of Health.

  • About the program, Rogers says applicants need a high school diploma and at least one year of university study is recommended although not required. She says about one-third of her students have a science background, one-third a social science background, and the other third is "a real mixture," including an opera singer and a banker.

    Whether they take four years or seven years to complete the degree program, midwives have excellent job prospects, says Rogers, and there's a position for every new graduate. However, they can't set up shop where they would like; the Ministry of Health more or less decides that for them.

    Still, starting salaries for full-time midwives -- who are self-employed contract workers for the Ministry -- are $55,000 a year plus benefits.

    That's a handsome beginning, and will no doubt help many new midwives pay off their student loans. Huntly calculates her tuition fees for full-time instruction this year at $7,200.

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