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“Tough women who know exactly what they want“

Doctorate in Midwifery: “Tough women who know exactly what they want“


Photo: Wilfried Schnepp

Professor Wilfried Schnepp; © University Witten/Herdecke

During pregnancy and childbirth, midwives are irreplaceable attachment figures for expectant mothers. That’s why it makes no sense that their position in society is disputed more and more, by paying them poorly and making their profession unnecessarily expensive through horrendous liability insurance premiums.

Many people in Germany don’t know that the profession of “midwifery“ is not just simply a job that requires vocational training, but that it can also be studied. That’s why it is gratifying that the University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany, now even awards a doctorate in midwifery. Professor Wilfried Schnepp, Department of Health (Chair of family-oriented and community-based care) answered’s questions on the new postgraduate midwifery course. As of late, midwives are now able to earn a doctorate at your University. What kind of qualification do they need to meet for this?

Wilfried Schnepp: The qualifications can be found in the cooperative agreement, which the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) of Osnabrück, Germany, reached with us the University of Witten/Herdecke. Even though midwives can study at our facility, these are not midwife-specific study courses. However, those are offered by the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück. The University of Applied Sciences on its own however cannot award a doctorate in midwifery to those midwives who studied at their place of education, since Universities of Applied Sciences have no authorization to award doctorates. That’s why one of my colleagues from the University of Applied Sciences, Professor Friederike zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, approached me and asked whether we would like to collaborate, since here in Witten we offer a major in “family-oriented care“. After all, as part of our major, many topics are covered that midwives also engage in. And now, based on this cooperative agreement midwives who went to college can earn their doctorate with us. Do midwives also see a doctorate as a way to create better career conditions? Just recently many complained about the strongly increased premiums for the required liability insurance, which many of them can no longer afford.

Schnepp: Within the scope of their doctorates, the midwives for example study the processes of professional action, for instance to develop tools for risk assessment or they study the impact of social settings on anxiety that’s experienced during childbirth and pregnancy. They also study what working instruments help to better organize working structures. I can imagine though, and it will also turn out this way, that if we practice midwifery research on a grander scale, the midwives will also deal with the desolate social prerequisites of their profession. Because presently intolerable things are happening, which make the professional life of a midwife much harder than is necessary. This includes for example excessively high costs due to insurance premiums for instance. In this case the German Association of Midwives should fight as a united front and also raise political awareness.

Photo: A Pregnant Belly with Stethoscope

© Eden 05-05-2011 marked the International Day of the Midwife. You just emphasized that the Association needs to exert political pressure. That being said, do you also believe politicians and health insurance companies are obligated to make sure that the work of midwives in the future will once again be better compensated along with creating better working conditions?

Schnepp: Absolutely. Though you can almost generalize this beyond midwives. All of the non-medical health care professions in Germany suffer from unbearable situations! What’s currently going on in health care politics and how skillfully it often looks the other way, is irresponsible. The working conditions that midwives, nurses or elderly care nurses endure are no longer acceptable. Not many people are aware of the fact that “midwifery“ is not just a job that requires vocational training, but can also be studied at a university. Is it important to you to clarify this misapprehension?

Schnepp: It is important to me that midwives become qualified in accordance with the responsibilities and duties of their professional activities. And this means a university degree. In our neighboring countries, midwives have always studied at universities, otherwise they are not even allowed to practice. After all, midwives have highly responsible duties and responsibilities and even in Germany it still applies that a midwife is present during childbirth – the physician can be present, but he doesn’t have to be. That’s why midwives carry out highly responsible duties. In any case, it is absurd that they have not been educated in universities long ago.

Photo: Globe

© Tromeur Where does Germany currently rank against other countries, when you compare midwifery training?

Schnepp: As I have already said, in other countries midwifery training has been part of a university-level education for a very long time. I would however still not say that the German midwifery training in general is terrible, but I am saying that I would summon such a small group like the midwives immediately to the universities – since this is possible without any problems. In health care, for example in the case of nurses, this would be significantly more difficult due to the strength of this group, although this occupation group also attends universities abroad. You are currently sponsoring the first two doctorial candidates. How is that going?

Schnepp: Just recently I was in Osnabrück and met with my colleague Mrs. zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and both doctorial candidates. We talked about the first outline for the exposés and how the topics can be narrowed down. And it ended up being exactly as I thought it would be: The doctorial candidates are tough women who know exactly what they want.

The interview was conducted by Simone Ernst and translated by Elena O’Meara.


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