ABU DHABI // A unified licensing system for nurses and midwives across the country will act as a "quality assurance" for the public, a conference heard yesterday.
Under the present system, nurses and midwives can obtain a licence through the Ministry of Health, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi or the Dubai Health Authority.
The UAE Nursing and Midwifery Council began work to create a single system for all nurses and midwives last year, but a date for its implementation has not yet been set, according to a council member speaking at the fourth annual Midwifery Conference in the capital.
The new system would vastly boost midwifery in the region, said Jane Abdulali, the assistant director of nursing at Corniche Hospital and the president of the Emirates Nursing Association's midwives section.
"It's like a quality assurance," Mrs Abdulali said. "What it will do is to make sure that when you are licensed as a midwife, [the public] can be assured that this midwife has gone through proper training and has a certain set of knowledge and skills. It protects the general public from unsafe practitioners."
Without a unified regulatory system in place, there was no record of the number of midwives working in the UAE, Mrs Abdulali said.
Frances Day-Stirk, the president of the International Confederation of Midwives, said that despite midwifery being one of the oldest and most respected professions in the world, it was often overlooked.
Midwives care for childbearing women during pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as immediately after birth. They also help care for the newborn baby, and assist the mother with breast feeding.
"People take it for granted that they are being taken care of by competent midwives," Ms Day-Stirk said. "[A unified system] will regulate the standards and codes of behaviour, will keep a register of anyone who is qualified, and will also [offer] some continuing education."
She said having a sufficient supply of highly trained midwives would also help in meeting the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.
"One of the goals is to reduce maternal mortality by 75 per cent [worldwide], but there is a dire shortage [of midwives]," she said.
According to an estimate from the World Health Organization, the world needs an extra 350,000 midwives.
Mrs Abdulali said people needed to understand that midwives were the best caregivers for childbirth.
"If you are a healthy young woman and you are pregnant, you do not need a doctor," she said. "You need a licensed midwife, because, should your pregnancy then develop complications like high blood pressure, a midwife is trained to recognise that."