Single registered midwives contributing care for general patients: A scoping study
Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing
Australian Nursing & Midwifery Foundation
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Midwifery vacancies persist in small maternity units in Australian rural and private settings where midwives are expected to also care for general (non-maternity) patients when midwifery activity is low. Recruiting dual registered nurse/midwives over single registered midwives is preferred, as single registered midwives are seen as inflexible to assist with nursing work. Little is known about single registered midwives’ contribution to care of general patients in small maternity units.
This scoping study aimed to consult single registered midwives and managers of single registered midwives to determine perspectives on single registered midwives’ contribution in small maternity units where the workload encompasses both midwifery and care of general patients, to inform further research.
Study design and methods:
This study used a qualitative description design. Two online focus groups were held, one containing three single registered midwives, the other three managers of single registered midwives. Similar questions were posed to each group about single registered midwives’ contribution to care in small maternity units. Data analysis was conducted collaboratively through coding and thematic categorisation processes.
Four major categories were found. Single registered midwives’ scope of practice concerning general patients is undefined; single registered midwives possess transferrable clinical skills applicable to general patients; practical, professional, and emotional barriers exist for single-registered midwives in small maternity units; and future research recommendations include scope of practice and workplace experiences.
Persistent midwifery vacancies are implicated in the closure of small maternity units to the detriment of childbearing families. Understanding the contribution of single registered midwives in small maternity units will inform future research and midwifery recruitment strategies to improve access to services.
The experiences of single registered midwives working in small maternity units warrants further investigation. This scoping study contributes to the literature about single registered midwives’ experiences in small maternity units and suggests considerations for future research
Implications for research, policy and practice:
Findings from this study provide information about the contribution of single registered midwives to small maternity units where there is an expectation to contribute to care of general patients in addition to midwifery. Future research into the experiences of single registered midwives working in these settings will generate information to inform recruitment strategies, potentially improving access to maternity care in small maternity units and may be used in the review of midwifery regulation and educational standards.
What is already known about the topic?
- Midwifery vacancies persist in small maternity units in rural and regional areas where the workload comprises both midwifery and nursing practice, despite strategies to recruit dual registered nurse/midwives.
- Dual registrants face challenges in maintaining both nursing and midwifery professional obligations in small maternity units.
- There are increasing numbers of single registered midwives registering each year in Australia and educational opportunities to become a single registered midwife exist in rural settings.
What this paper adds:
- Single registered midwives make a useful contribution to care in small maternity units, and they assist with the care of general patients.
- The scope of practice for single registered midwives in assisting with general patients is not defined.
- Recommendations for future research include scope of practice for assisting with general patients and workplace challenges faced by single registered midwives because of their midwife-only qualification.