Western Australia facing critical losses in its midwifery workforce: A survey of midwives' intentions
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Nursing and Midwifery / Clinical Nursing and Midwifery Research Centre
Objective: the ongoing attrition of the midwifery workforce frustrates future workforce planning and the provision of maternity services in Western Australia. This project determined factors contributing to the intention of the midwives to move jobs and/or leave the profession. Design: a cross-sectional survey approach was taken for this descriptive research utilising a self-administered questionnaire developed by the Nursing and Midwifery Office, Department of Health, Western Australia. Setting: public and private health sectors in Western Australia, April–May 2010. Participants: 1,600 midwives employed in the public and private health sectors throughout Western Australia were invited to participate: 712 responded (44.5%), one-fifth of the state's registered midwives. Findings: most midwives worked part-time in a clinical role in public hospitals. Almost half intended moving jobs within 5 years and/or leaving midwifery. Excluding midwives of retirement age, the most common reasons for intending to move jobs were family commitments, working conditions and role dissatisfaction. Those intending to leave midwifery cited work-life balance, career change and family commitments. Midwives thought addressing the following issues would improve midwifery retention: flexible work arrangements, remuneration, staffing and caseload, workplace culture, professional development and models of care. Key conclusions: retaining the midwifery workforce requires attention to workforce practices particularly flexible work arrangements and workloads; models of care to strengthen midwives' relationships with clients and colleagues; and accessible professional development. Implications for practice a review of workplace practices at unit and institution levels is urgently required in Western Australia so that midwives can achieve work-life balance and practice to the full extent of their professional role. These changes are necessary to forestall premature retirement of skilled and experienced midwives from the profession and workforce churn.