My shifts as a Full-Time Newly Qualified Midwife (including my actual rota!)

I’ve had so many messages lately from people considering going into Midwifery but wondering how the shifts work and if you actually get a life alongside the job, so I thought I’d share some details and then share a few of my latest rotas to show you how much I work and the kinds of shifts I get.

All the details are below, including my schedules, and I have also filmed a youtube video on the topic if that is something you would be interested in watching instead of scrolling through lots of words – I will post it on my Youtube page now.

Shift Requests

Obviously every unit is different and some hospitals run on a self-rostering basis, but I believe the majority run the way my hospital does where you get a set number of requests every month that are “guaranteed”. In my trust it is 4, so I can request to have a day off, or request to work a certain shift up to 4 times a month, and they should be pretty much guaranteed.
You can be quite clever with it if you’re organised and ensure you get the odd long weekend etc off without taking annual leave, as if you, for example, requested to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of one week (bearing in mind most weeks you do 3 shifts a week) and then used your 4th request to request the following Monday off, then you would be guaranteed to be off from the Thursday to the Monday without taking annual leave, which is a complete winner! It would mean that you wouldn’t have any more requests for that month, but its a good way of making it work.

Contract details

The shifts you work do depend on your contract. Obviously, the number of hours you are contracted to do, but also if you have any extenuating circumstances or need a flexible working contract.

My trust, and, I believe most other trusts, don’t run on a set rotating shift pattern, but you can ask for a flexible working agreement on your contract with the hospital to work certain shifts in a pattern due to things like childcare. If you have one of these, you agree on certain shifts you will work, generally on a 2 weekly pattern, so you always know which you will be working. I don’t have one of those (as we don’t have kids or extenuating circumstances) so I pretty much work what I’m given, aside from my 4 requests a month.

Regarding hours, my contract is classified as “Full-time” but I don’t work the full 37.5 hours, instead, I work 36 hours a week. Not a huge difference and doesn’t make a huge difference in pay, but makes a HUGE difference in my work-life balance. This is because every 12.5 hour shift includes a half hour unpaid break. So three shifts a week actually only adds up to 36 hours worked. So every few weeks, you need to do a fourth shift or “make-up-shift” to make up the extra 1.5 hours a week that you haven’t worked. I have chosen not to do this, so I get paid for 36 hours instead of 37.5 but only ever do 3 shifts a week.

Annual Leave

Your annual leave allowance varies depending on how long you’ve worked continuously for the NHS, and also varies depending on how many hours you have on your contract.

The standard allowance on first starting working for the NHS is 27 days plus bank holidays, but you always take it in hours, so you actually get 202.5 hours plus bank holidays – this is so you get the same amount of annual leave as someone who works shorter days but in a higher quantity – a week off is still the number of hours you are contracted to work that week, regardless of whether that is 3 shifts or 5 – fair really.
So if I want a day off as annual leave in the hospital, I take 12 hours of leave (1 shift) and that means I am guaranteed to only work two shifts that week.

Actual Rota

Ok, so now we’ve covered the nitty gritty details that affect everything, let’s have a look at a couple of my rotas that I’ve worked in the last year, so you can see how my 36 hour contract pans out in practice and the kind of shifts you will work if you become a midwife.

I’ve picked out a few months that give a real idea of what shifts I work…

Long Day = 07.30-20.00
Long Night = 19.30-08.00

I’ve labelled the months A, B, C & D just for confidentiality so you don’t know exact dates that I worked – they were not in this order and were not consecutive months.


This month was mostly days, with a handful of night shifts thrown in. This is the balance that I prefer – I don’t like doing loads of nights if I can help it! I also had 12 hours of annual leave in the first week, which I tend to do to lighten the workload rather than take set blocks off – at least while we are saving for the wedding and not planning any travel…

Long DayLong Day12 Hrs AL
Long DayLong NightLong Night
Long DayLong DayLong Day
Long DayLong DayLong Night
Long NightLong DayLong Day

This month had a few more nights in it, and a bit more time working on the weekends (bearing in mind that a Friday night wipes out Saturday too)

Long DayLong DayLong Day
Long NightLong NightLong Night
Long NightLong NightLong Night
Long DayLong DayLong Night
Long DayLong NightLong Day

This month was pretty tough – lots of nights in blocks, with very little recovery time between. This month I just wanted to show, not to emphasise how tough nights are but more to demonstrate the real difference that can happen month to month when the rota is concerned.

Long DayLong NightLong Day
Long NightLong NightLong Night
Long NightLong NightLong Night
Long NightLong NightLong Night
Long DayLong NightLong Day

Bit of a more gentle month with fewer nights and also 24 hours of annual leave meaning I had two weeks where I only had 2 shifts instead of 3.

Long NightLong DayLong Day
Long DayLong DayLong Day
12 Hrs ALLong DayLong Day
Long DayLong DayLong Day
12 Hrs ALLong NightLong Night

So that gives you a bit of an overview of how the scheduling works for me working as a full time midwife on a 36 hour contract. My hours and schedule will be changing completely in a few weeks when I go into Community so I will definitely share that with you too.

Obviously some weeks and some months are easier than others schedule-wise, but then your pay is affected hugely by those weeks and months that are tougher (see my What Does A Newly-Qualified Midwife Get Paid? post and video for more information).

I hope that this post has helped give you a bit more of an insight into how the rota works as a midwife in the UK – obviously each hospital varies and some hospitals do a lot more of the shorter shifts, whereas my hospital tends to focus more on 12.5 hour shifts rather than early/late shifts – but it should give you an idea of how your work-life balance can work as a midwife and what kind of shifts you will most likely be working.

Please leave any comments or questions below!

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  • Reply
    February 16, 2021 at 6:22 am

    Thanks so much for this! I have been a lurker on your blog for a couple of years now. I am concerned about the affect on family life that a potential career change to nursing or midwifery might bring (my husband and I are about to welcome our first child into the world). I would love to do something fulfilling and useful with my life but it is so scary thinking of going from 9-5 office job into the unknown territory of NHS rotas. You have given me a valuable insight!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Rosie, I am currently applying for Midwifery as a mature student (in Ireland), and I’ve been searching for useful info on shifts and rotas with zero success until I found your blog!! So thank you very much! I have two amazing children, ages 5 and 7, and am 39 years old myself. I’m terrified of shift work as I’ve never had to do it and I generally start to yawn at 5pm these days!! But looking at your schedules and explanation it suddenly doesn’t look all that scary…

  • Reply
    Elisha Ashley
    May 19, 2021 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Rosie, thank you so much this gave me a real insight on the NHS rota system. I have a child and I’m thinking of starting the course so this helped a lot knowing what it would be like if I qualified.

    I do have one question about the night shifts. How are they different to day shifts? What makes them gruelling?

    Thank you again xx

  • Reply
    January 29, 2022 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Rosie,

    thank you for this insight into the schedule as nursing/midwifery is something I have always wanted to do since I was a child, having my first child at 18 and my 2nd at 26 I kind of put my career on the back burner but I have real been considering lately what am I going to do with my life as my children are 14 & 6 now and I love being a hands on mum but I know how quick they grow up and I will still be in the same position, the only thing that has stopped me is the though of 12 hour shifts and missing out on their childhood but I know see that I could choose different avenues that do not consist of just 12 hour shifts but also from you explanation I see 12 hour shifts could work as I will have 4 days off in-between!

    I have just finished my application for paediatric nursing degree if I get picked I will be qualified when I am 36 🙂
    thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      Rosie | A Girl On A Journey
      July 14, 2022 at 12:28 pm

      Glad I could help! Wishing you the very best of luck! xx

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