Commencing Undergraduate Midwifery Students' Beliefs About Birth and the Role of the Midwife

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

A shift has occurred in the last decade toward preregistration undergraduate Bachelor of Midwifery programs in Australia. This has led to an increase in the numbers of student midwives from diverse backgrounds with limited experience of university and socialization into hospital systems.

AIM:

This study aimed to explore commencing midwifery students' beliefs about birth and expectations of the role of the midwife.

METHOD:

A qualitative descriptive approach was used. All 115 commencing first-year midwifery students enrolled in the first week of an undergraduate Bachelor of Midwifery program were invited and completed a self-administered survey. The survey used open-ended questions to elicit student beliefs about birth and the role of the midwife. Latent content analysis was used to analyze the data set.

FINDINGS:

Midwifery students' beliefs were captured within the four themes: birth as “a miracle,” “a woman's journey,” “a transformative event,” and “a natural process.” Students articulated the role of the midwife as one of support, education, advocacy, and partnership. Student beliefs and expectations were aligned with the emergent philosophy of the normality of birth and woman-centered care within the Australian maternity care context.

CONCLUSION:

Greater understanding is essential to designing quality midwifery education programs that are responsive to the needs of commencing student midwives. Supporting midwifery students' successful transition into, and early engagement with the midwifery profession, may have long-term benefits in terms of retention and successful completion of their program. In addition, ensuring professional socialization occurs early is likely to develop graduates who are well prepared to work across their full scope and are willing to participate in the reform of maternity services in Australia.

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