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Page updated 27.6.2016

Tender and strong hands – and feet firmly on the ground

If you want to meet a woman whose built-in qualities include quick decision-making and responsibility, you should meet a midwife. A strong professional identity and knowing all colours in the spectrum of life are discernible in the midwives who studied a degree in the field 50 years ago.

Text and photo: Anne Lehikoinen

“200 years of Finnish midwife education”

Recently a group of retired midwives gathered in Turku. About fifty years ago, the women learning the ropes were e.g. Liisa Pirkola from Vaasa, Anja Komulainen from Kajaani, Ritva Paulin from Lohja and Raija Nevalainen from Kirkkonummi. It’s nice to share the memories.

“The entrance exam took three days. It was great to get a study place and obvious that we were going to be good and responsible midwives. We studied in Helsinki under the tutelage of legendary teachers. There you simply had to survive and the professional pride grew already during the studies.”

The studying ladies lived in Kätilöopisto boarding school in Helsinki. Before they moved to working life, they had to take care of 50 births independently. For many, studying towards the degree of a midwife was a dream profession, because they wanted out of office jobs and closer to people, to help.

Midwives today

Today the extent of Finnish midwife education is 270 ECTS credits and it lasts 4.5 years. The graduates have participated in 40 births and in addition to practical training, during the studies several students have worked as exchange students in health care abroad, says degree programme leader Mari Berglund, who teaches midwives at TUAS.

Nowadays midwives are educated in eight universities of applied sciences. The Finnish midwife education yields professionals who have versatile competence in sexual and reproductive health care. Nowadays multiculturalism is also a part of the education.

A midwife is responsible for the well-being of pregnant women, during and after childbirth, and for the well-being of the newborn and the entire family. In current maternity health clinic work, a midwife supports women in different situations in their lives and in an increasing amount, their work also includes supporting the father during the mother’s pregnancy and childbirth.

Demanding and rewarding work

The experienced, retired midwives tell about their experiences in delivery rooms and maternity health clinics. The work was rewarding and they got a lot of direct feedback. Childbirth is always a big issue. Before and after that, they took care also of the well-being of the mother and the entire family.

“Very often we got to know the mother in the maternity health clinic work very well. It’s important to establish a confidential relationship with the mother at the beginning of the pregnancy.

Obviously a midwife has to encounter difficult situations and families at her job, but professionalism helps to deal with difficult situations, too. Mutual trust and professional competence are the factors protecting us in the everyday work”, the midwives say.

The reminiscing evokes happy practical examples on how a midwife is a respected figure especially in small places. They have helped a couple of generations into the world and may receive invitations to confirmation and graduation parties.

Those who have retired, proud of their profession, emphasize that in midwife work, acting as a support person, clear decision-making skills and responsibility are important values which the education should foster also in the future.

“In the delivery room everyone is equal, we’re all human beings”, the experienced professionals say.

200 years of midwife education in Finland

Finnish midwife education started in Turku on 1 November 1816 by the River Aura. From there, the education was moved to the University of Helsinki in 1833. It was the first professional education aimed especially at women in Finland.

In Turku, celebrations for midwife education will take place on 1 November:

The jubilee will take place on 1 November at 13–16

at the address Ruiskatu 8, Turku University of Applied Sciences.

TUAS will organize a jubilee to celebrate midwife education and highlight the significant history of the field. The event will also offer midwives the chance to meet each other