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Strengthening global midwifery: Starting the journey in the United Arab Emirates

In an ongoing series of blogs, two UK midwives, Georgina Sosa and Maeve O’Connell, will be sharing their journey of supporting development of midwifery in another global setting. In this first post, Maeve  reflects on the beginning of their role.

Strengthening global midwifery: Starting the journey in the United Arab Emirates


  1. A reflection as we begin this journey 20th October, 2021

Maeve O’Connell PhD, Midwife

So, we have had the courage to take on this challenge of developing a high-quality midwifery degree programme in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Strengthening global midwifery is so important for maternal and newborn outcome, not least the quality of care experienced by women during the perinatal period. Quality midwifery care is not something which can be designed and implemented overnight. We are under no illusion that this is going to take hard work, inspiration, innovation and collaboration. We are going to need the input of many different people as stakeholders in this vital work. In this blog I will reflect on the journey ahead of us.

What is Midwifery?

Midwifery is a separate profession from nursing. ‘Midwife’ is a professional title which should only be used by those who have successfully completed a midwifery education programme based on the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Essential Competencies for Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education and is recognised in the country where it is located; who has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery.

“Midwifery is an approach to care of women and their newborn infants whereby midwives:

  • optimise the normal biological, psychological, social and cultural processes of childbirth and early life of the newborn;
  • work in partnership with women, respecting the individual circumstances and views of each woman;
  • promote women’s personal capabilities to care for themselves and their families;
  • collaborate with midwives and other health professionals as necessary to provide holistic care that meets each woman’s individual needs.”

WHO 2020  Renfrew 2014

Coming from the UK where midwifery is well-established as a profession, recognised as a distinct profession by our regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), where we have the Royal College of Midwives as a professional body and well developed professional standards and competencies for midwifery education, we bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with us which will help us to shape and inform this new degree programme. However, here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) we are new to this country and need to develop an understanding of what is happening at present, and how we can work with and be scaffolded by the existing maternity care and education structures. Communication is critical for the success of this initiative which will no doubt lead to reciprocal benefits for all involved in this collaboration. Without the positive engagement of the midwives and management, it will not be successful. Furthermore, the input of students of Fatima College of Health Sciences, future students and the public will be required to keep a student-centered focus, ensuring their needs are met and leading to a positive student experience which will ensure our students will remain engaged with the programme and graduate as midwives.

The MATE (Midwifery Assessment Tool for Education) tool has been designed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Midwifery Development at Cardiff University, at the request of the WHO European region, to facilitate the discussions and planning of countries in which midwifery is not well established. It will help us to think about the current state of midwifery in the country and help us to plan for the future of midwifery. From there we can think about the challenges we may face and the opportunities which may be experienced. Through these key discussions it will help us to get from where we are, to where we want to be. Our intention is for this initiative to be well-planned and well-managed. Our vision is that, ultimately, the outcome will be competent graduate midwives who will work within a well-defined scope of practice, delivering and leading high-quality compassionate midwifery care underpinned by dignity and respect in a variety of settings.

As midwives registered with the NMC in the UK, everything that we do is underpinned by the following values known as “The 6 C’s”: Caring, Courage, Commitment, Compassion, Communication and Competence, which, according to The NMC Code, are values that will inform our approach to developing this midwifery degree programme. (NMC, 2018).

We care about women and newborn infants. Their experience and outcomes are integral to society and shape the world we live in and its future. We also care about midwives and nurses, their well-being, job satisfaction and ways of working. Keeping this in mind on this journey will always light the fire in our bellies and we must keep this central to the reason why we are undertaking this ambitious project. We are doing it because we care. We believe that midwives can make a difference in public health.

We have the courage to make a start on this ambitious project. It is not going to be plain sailing, there will be obstacles along the way, and we will have to navigate the challenges which arise. Starting is difficult, but as midwives we have got to advocate for women and infants and for the survival of our profession.

We are committed to this initiative, working in and within the community around us to recognise and bring in the talent and dedicated individuals who will be pivotal to its success. We are committed to having a student-centered focus and a compassionate approach, ensuring that student midwives will feel supported and nourished in their midwifery education, emerging confident and competent as graduate midwives who will be capable of being leaders in their field.

We will develop a high-quality midwifery curriculum which will encompass specific midwifery competencies as requisites to guide the student midwife experience in line with the International Confederation of Midwives standards before they would achieve competence allowing them to apply for licensure in the United Arab Emirates. Our graduates should meet not only local standards but also international standards which would enable them the ability to work internationally.

This is the beginning of a new chapter, with planning, and co-operation, working together we will achieve our goal, build the healthcare workforce, and provide more options for women’s maternity care in the UAE in future.


Alex 26 October 2021 at 12:02

So proud of both of you for starting this ambitious project! Raising the competency of a student midwife is hard enough, but raising the competency for a whole Emirate is groundbreaking. You two are superstars 🙂

Mary 28 October 2021 at 15:31

Best wishes to you both. It is a very worthwhile project.

Tracy 26 October 2021 at 12:56

I am so happy to have you special midwives here with us!

Ann Walker 26 October 2021 at 19:27

Good luck, I shall enjoying hearing about your successes.

Agnes 28 October 2021 at 20:39

Looking forward to hearing about how this project will develop. Best of luck with it all.

Mandy Forrester 1 November 2021 at 07:47

Looking forward to following your journey and collaborating where possible!


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