Updated November 2023
Download a PDF copy of this Fact Sheet: Scope of practice and capabilities of midwives (573 KB,PDF)
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) regulates the practice of nursing and midwifery in
Australia and one of its key roles is to protect the public. The NMBA does this by developing standards,codes and guidelines which together establish the requirements for the professional and safe practice of nurses and midwives in Australia. The NMBA undertakes its functions as set by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).
Under the National Law, nursing and midwifery are recognised as two separate professions These titles are protected under the National Law with each having different education, knowledge, skills and standards for practice and different responsibilities and activities.
This guidance on the scope of practice and capabilities of midwives provides a high-level collective synopsis of the NMBAs registration standards, standards for practice, codes and guidelines. It has been developed as guidance for stakeholders such as employers, private and public health services, and other health practitioners, on the varying roles and scope of practice of midwives and endorsed midwives. Employers can use the information as a starting point, when determining which practitioner best suits the needs and requirements of their health service. It can also provide clarity and guidance to the public when receiving care from a midwife.
The information in the following tables clarifies the educational outcomes, provides examples of core activities and fundamental differences between a midwife and an endorsed midwife. While the tables provide examples of some core activities that midwives carry out in practice, throughout their careers midwives continue to develop their knowledge and skills and expand their scope of practice.
For information about the education pathways and core activities of enrolled nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners, please refer to the NMBA’s Fact sheet: Scope of practice and capabilities of nurses.
For information on Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)1 please refer to the AQF website.
1 Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training.
Under the National Law there are specific titles which are referred to as ‘protected titles’. Midwife and endorsed Midwife are protected titles. This means that only those midwives who are registered or endorsed with the NMBA can use these titles in Australia.
The following qualifications and outcomes are necessary for registration/endorsement with the NMBA.
Study duration: Three years full time
Study duration: Two years or equivalent
Post graduate pathway (AQF 8)1 – for current RNs seeking midwifery registration.
Study duration: 12 months
Graduates commonly complete a supported transition to practice program, though this in not mandatory
Students complete a minimum of 10 continuity of care episodes (antenatal, labour and postnatal care) with women and their families.
Midwives graduate with a woman-centred approach to practice and an integrated theoretical and practice-based knowledge of care across the childbearing continuum.
Midwives have an in-depth scientific knowledge that includes the administration, supply and quality use of medicine relevant to midwifery practice.
Midwives have foundational skills in communication, relationships and management.
Holds registration as a midwife in Australia and has 5000 hours of clinical practice as a midwife
Plus, completion of an NMBA-approved program of post-graduate study leading to endorsement for scheduled medicines. (AQF 8)1
Study duration: 6-12 months
The NMBA publishes a list of midwives who are registered to practise in Australia. The list is called the ‘Register of practitioners’. When a midwife’s name appears on the list, you know that they are registered. Sometimes a registered practitioner has a type of registration or conditions that limit what they can do. If a midwife has restrictions or conditions associated with their registration you will see these on the public register. Midwives with endorsement are also identified on the public register.
While the foundational education of midwives in Australia captures the full breadth of the scope of the profession at the graduate entry level, the scope of practice of individual practitioners is influenced by the settings in which they practise. This includes the health needs of people, the level of competence and confidence of the midwife and the policy requirements of the service provider.
As the midwife gains new skills and knowledge, their individual scope of practice changes.
Midwives work in partnership with women. Midwives supervise student midwives and other healthcare workers and delegate activities from a midwifery plan of care.
Examples of core midwife activities include:
In addition to the core activities of a midwife, examples of core activities of Endorsed midwives include: