Midwives' perceptions of their role within the context of maternity service reform: An Appreciative Inquiry

Mary Sidebotham, Jennifer Fenwick, Susan Rath, Jenny Gamble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In 2010 Australian Government reform of maternity services enabled midwives to access Medicare. This significant change provides midwives with new opportunities to engage in patterns of working that provide continuity of care to childbearing women. There remains limited evidence, however, on midwives perceptions of how the reforms impact them both personally and professionally. Aim: This research examined midwives' perceptions of their role and how, in light of the reform agenda, they might conceptualise a change in working patterns and environment to provide greater levels of continuity of care. Method: A qualitative descriptive approach was employed using the four-stage Appreciative Inquiry model. Twenty-three midwives from three maternity units within south-east Queensland participated in one of six focus groups. Thematic iterative analysis was employed to identify empirical codes and examine relationships within and across the data. Findings: Midwives endorsed the reforms and considered the concept of continuity of midwifery care as fundamental to achieving a woman centred maternity system. Most participants, however, found it difficult to conceptualise how they might contribute to any level of system change. In addition the majority passively accepted the status quo of their employing organisation and believed they were powerless to effect change. Conclusion: In order to promote the growth of evidence based continuity of care models midwives need to work to their full scope of practice. Strong midwifery leadership is required to enable midwives to re-conceptualise roles and work patterns and identify how they can engage with and contribute to reform of maternity services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Australian College of Midwives.


  • Appreciative
  • Continuity
  • Inquiry
  • Midwives
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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