“Sometimes I wonder why I chose this profession. Aliette is 22 years old. For three years, she has been a student midwife in Paris. Like many of her classmates, although she "loves her job", she is exhausted. "We follow courses and internships which are exhausting", blows the student, who admits "to be often at the end" since the beginning of her studies. “Sometimes it's really difficult and you feel very alone, nobody accompanies you. »
A malaise shared by more than half of the 4,000 French students in midwifery. According to the barometer published by the National Association of Student Midwives (Anesf) on Monday, April 3, 80% of future midwives feel more stressed since the start of their training. After a more theoretical first year, they quickly move on to practical exercises with twelve-hour shifts, day and night.
With staggered rhythms and internships sometimes more than an hour from their home, 20% of students feel isolated. They are even more numerous to recognize that their training does not allow them to flourish and to lack educational support. "I've never been so tired," says Camille, a fourth-year student in Montpellier. And the state of fatigue and stress affects our sleep, our diet and even our morale. »
Exhausted, half of the students have already considered quitting their studies. The same proportion who do not see themselves wearing the pink blouse for more than fifteen years. "I really like what I do, but under these conditions, I can't see myself doing this for a lifetime," adds Camille, the student from Montpellier. "This observation is particularly alarming when we think of the future of the profession, points out to Point Loona Mourenas, spokesperson for Anesf. The unprecedented crisis that the profession is going through necessarily has an impact on us, the students. »
For more than a year, practicing midwives have also been issuing warnings. "Mothers and babies in danger," they warned last summer, when gynecological emergency services were forced to close for lack of staff. In December, then January 2023, the pink blouses once again took to the streets to demand better recognition as well as a salary increase.
Every day, more than 23,000 midwives attend the first cries of thousands of newborns. Despite their lack of visibility, they are essential for the smooth running of pregnancy and the first days of life. Yet the overburdened profession suffers from a lack of vocations. Midwife for ten years in the Paris region, Marie is without appeal. "Conditions have deteriorated significantly," she said. We have lost more than half of our staff, we have closed our pathological pregnancy service and we are forced to call on temporary workers to make up for the lack of staff. »
A tense situation that student midwives feel the full force of. "When we arrive in a service where it is already at war, no one is available to explain to us what we should do," continues Aliette. For Caroline Combot, General Secretary of the ONSSF, National Trade Union Organization of Midwives, "the activity is so intense during their internships that many students feel left to their own devices". According to her, "all these elements taken together lead to physical and psychological difficulties".
In the same barometer published five years earlier, more than one in ten student midwives used psychotropic drugs during their training. A figure which, after the Covid years and the repeated hospital crises, must be estimated "largely on the rise", according to Anesf. While awaiting the results of the next study focusing on the mental health of students in the medical field, which should see the light of day next year, future midwives are expecting a lot from the Chapelier law, passed last January, establishing a sixth year of study as well as a harmonization of training between all midwifery schools.