Midwives' Experiences of Transitioning Into Private Practice With Visiting Access in Australia: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Megan Barker, Jennifer Fenwick, Jenny Gamble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: A national review of maternity services in Australia in 2009 resulted in legislative changes which provided midwives with an unprecedented opportunity to offer continuity of care as a private practitioner with visiting access to a public maternity hospital. However, very few midwives have taken up this opportunity. AIM: To explore the experiences of midwives who transitioned into private practice with visiting access to a public hospital. METHOD: Using a qualitative descriptive approach, six midwives participated in digitally recorded in-depth interviews. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis. FINDINGS: Transitioning to private practice enabled midwives to align their core midwifery values with their practice. Midwives reported taking “a leap of faith” by venturing into private practice. Although seeking visiting access and running a small business was initially daunting, midwives were rewarded by being able to practice autonomously and provide continuity of woman centered care within a caseload model. The legislative restrictions, especially around employing other midwives posed significant challenges. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Private practice with visiting access provided midwives with a service model that aligned their core midwifery values with their clinical practice. The model facilitated their ability to work as lead care professionals, provide woman centered care, and access a collaborative network of healthcare professions. However, the midwives continued to experience structural barriers that threaten the scalability and sustainability of the model. Structural barriers to midwives working to their full scope of practice and in alignment with a midwifery philosophy are a global issue. Further reforms are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-157
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Childbirth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2019 Springer Publishing Company, LLC.


  • continuity of care
  • midwives
  • private practice
  • visiting access

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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