Monday, December 24, 2007

Emigrating to New Zealand to work as a midwife

I get a reasonable amount of emails asking me for advice about moving to New Zealand, especially from midwives. So I thought I'd write a couple of posts about this. But please remember a couple of things when you read them:

- this is purely a personal opinion - you will no doubt hear other stories or view points when you speak to different people;
- I moved to New Zealand from England 11 years ago so things may have changed, especially with regards to requirements for emigration;
- my opinion is based on both my personal experience and that of other families who have moved here, in particular midwives and corrections officers;
- my context is moving from England and the British maternity system - you may find things different if you come from a different country and maternity context from England.

This post will deal with issues pertaining to working as a midwife. My next post will deal to more general issues of emigration to New Zealand.

The maternity system is different to that of the UK. So it is really important that you understand the differences and in particular, you understand the midwifery role that you will be taking on when you get here. To get a feel for midwifery issues have a look through my blog and that of Carolyn McIntosh, as well as The New Zealand College of Midwives and The Midwifery Council of New Zealand web sites. The majority of overseas midwives are recruited to be hospital midwives and for many English midwives that role can come as a bit of a shock. Hospital core midwives deal mostly with secondary care patients and with women who have just had their babies. In a lot of hospitals, there are few opportunities to be involved with primary births. So if you are expecting to walk straight into a primary role, you need to check that that is the reality. The other thing to ask yourself is: why can't the hospital manage to get local midwives to do the job?

If financial constraints mean you must have a job, make sure it is secured before you get here. Whilst we have a major midwifery shortage here, you cannot be guaranteed you can get a job that you want the minute you arrive. Having said that, try not to commit yourself to any binding contract just in case the job is not what you want.

Make sure you fully understand the requirements of midwifery registration.

Do not waste your money going through a recruitment agency. It is fairly easy to get a job is your go through the hospitals. Here are a couple of web site that advertise midwifery jobs:


The other option is to go to the web sites of all the various District Health Boards in the region where you wish to settle.

Be mindful that we have a much smaller birthing population than Europe, UK and the USA. The advantages of that is that life is not quite as hectic as it is when working in a big hospital that caters for thousands of births per year. The downside is that you do not get the same extensive experience that you would with larger birthing populations.

One example is the local hospital in Dunedin. It is a tertiary hospital and is one of the two medical schools in New Zealand. But it only has about 1800 births a year - this is the equivalent of a local cottage hospital in England. There are doctors falling over themselves with inevitable high intervention rates. The result for midwives in my view, especially hospital midwives, is a lack of autonomy and decrease in midwifery skills such as cannulation and perineal repair as well as midwifery collaboration ie midwives refer straight to doctors instead of more experienced midwives.

Having said all that, New Zealand offers midwives the opportunity for autonomous practice as lead maternity carer, with an extensive scope of practice that may not be available in other countries.

If you are interested in the experiences of midwives who have emigrated, keep an eye out for the work of Mary Sidebottem who is currently looking at the experiences of midwives moving to Australia.


Stewart, S. 2001. Midwifery In New Zealand: a cause for celebration. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, September, 11 (3): 319-320.

Stewart, S. 2001. What’s it like to work in . . . New Zealand. The Practising Midwife, 4 (10): 34-37.

Stewart, S. 2001. Midwifery education in New Zealand. Midwifery Today, Winter (60): 44-45.

Stewart, S. 1999. Situations vacant: the shortage of midwives in New Zealand. The Practising Midwife, November, 2 (10): 34-36.

Stewart, S. 1999. Midwifery standards review in New Zealand; a personal review. British Journal of Midwifery, August, 7 (8): 511-514.

Image: 'Dunedin from the Peninsula' Barbara Agnew


Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know that was a fantastic help and I shall be adding you to my favourites list!

Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this it really is a great way to start out!

With thanks

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Feyaz. I've just had a quick look through this post because it is a while since I wrote it, & I think most of what I have said still stands.

Anonymous said...

hello, I am midwife from morocco,I would like to work in NEW ZEALAND.

Anonymous said...

I am Registered Nurse/Midwife in South Africa and I want to come and work in Labor Ward/Maternity in New Zealand. I have over 20years of work experience.
Check my CV

Unknown said...

Hellow I am Nurse in South Korea. I was looking for information of emigraing as midwife. This page was really helpful to me. Thank you for your posting

ahnjoe said...

Hi im a Midwife for almost 10 years now in the philippines & i would like to work in New Zealand, please help me & guide me how? thank you so much more power!

Anonymous said...

Hello! I'm at 3rd year midwifery student and am qualifying this September. I just wondered if there is any chance I would be able to apply for a job as a newly qualified midwife???
I am married and have a 7 year old son so would be looking for schools etc,. Any advice gratefully received.

Many thanks, Suzy.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Suzi, best advice I can give you is to check out the Midiwfery Council website - you'll find info about getting registration in NZ:

For jobs, look at:

I now live in Australia, so cannot advise on the midwifery job situation in NZ. cheers Sarah

Unknown said...

hello mam im in my 4thyear as a nursing student . I'am a registered midwife already. is there any chance that i can apply a job right after graduation in australia or new zealand? im from philippines thank you so

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello Hilda, in effect it will be some time before you'll be able to work in NZ or Australia because you have to go through the process of obtaining a visa etc. Otherwise, no, there's no reason why you cannot apply for a job as soon as you have qualified.

Unknown said...

Sarah, what's midwifery like in Australia compared to the UK?

Sarah Stewart said...

Very different, Unknown!

Anonymous said...

I Sarah I am a Midwife for 6years in Jamaica and is interested in working in New Zealand, this would be my first time leaving my country, I have two children and would love to take them with me. How do I apply for registration, will I have to do the English language test, before I can work there.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hello anonymous, I am afraid I haven't lived in New Zealand for years. My best advice is to contact the New Zealand Midwifery Council:

Good luck, Sarah