Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences

Midwifery Education in Japan

 Midwifery is a nursing occupation in Japan and all midwives are required to have licensure as a registered nurse in addition to licensure as a midwife. The Act on Public Health Nurses, Midwives, and Nurses (Nursing Act) regulates the minimum length of education and training required to receive licensure as three years for nurses and one year for midwives. At present there are various midwifery education courses in Japan such as in graduate schools, undergraduate schools, undergraduate non-degree programs, undergraduate special courses, junior college non-degree programs, and vocational schools.

 The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) introduced “Global Standards for Midwifery Education (2011)” as a framework for the development of midwifery education. These standards emphasize professional competency and specify the minimum practice standards required for skilled midwives. The only education courses in Japan for midwives that presently meet the ICM’s global standard of 18 months of education before licensure are the two-year graduate Master’s courses.

 First established in Japan in 2004, graduate school midwifery courses have been increasing yearly to the present number of twenty-eight courses (a total of 14 percent of all midwife courses nationwide). At present only one percent of all midwives are Master’s course graduates. The current midwifery environment in Japan is characterized by the progression of our declining birthrate, aging of expectant mothers, lack of obstetricians and decrease in parturient facilities along with the concurrent advancement of perinatal medical and assisted reproductive technology, so midwives are required to possess advanced diagnostic and practical midwifery skills and the ability to collaborate with other medical professionals including obstetricians.

Characteristics of Our Course

 As a result of our awareness of the crucial role that midwifery plays in our current society, our university established a two-year midwifery Master’s course in our Graduate School in 2004 in order to train midwives who have the maternity care competencies needed for providing advanced properinatal care for high-risk pregnancies and labor puerperal. At present, seventeen midwives have completed the course and most are employed in perinatal centers in tertiary emergency medical facilities dealing with obstetric emergencies. Our graduates are imbued with a strong spirit of inquiry concerning midwifery and are highly competent professional practitioners who are highly regarded at their clinical worksites.

Course Curriculum

 We introduced a new midwifery curriculum in 2012 of fifty-eight credits with thirty Master’s credits, including eighteen midwifery specialized credits, added to the twenty-eight credits stipulated by the Nursing Act. In order for students to acquire the practical skills needed for advanced perinatal mother and child health care, our curriculum features course content on high-risk pregnancy, childbirth puerpera and high-risk newborn babies, along with laboratory practice on ultrasound simulators and perineorrhaphy simulators to improve their practical skills. In particular, all students are assigned three pregnancies to care for from their first year in the course to foster their ability to provide continuous care and support throughout the periods of pregnancy, delivery, puerperium and childcare. Concerning deliveries, the Nursing Act stipulates that midwifery students are required to assist at no fewer than 10 under the supervision of a midwife or doctor, but in our curriculum it is a basic policy that each student should aim to assist in at least 15 deliveries.

 The mission of our midwifery Master’s course is to expand the scope of activity and social importance of midwifery activities in Japan. Our midwifery curriculum is based on the ICM’s “Global Standards for Midwifery Education” and our goal is to further improve and expand safe delivery by training our students in health promotion, preventive treatment, promotion of normal delivery as a physiological state, discovery of complications of mother and child, improvement of care for newborn babies, emergency treatment, and encouragement of our students as maternal health care professionals to consult with and educate families and communities about health problems.