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Navigating the midwifery undergraduate programme: Is resilience the key?

02 November 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 11



Student midwives face a number of challenges during their pre-registration programme, both academically and in clinical practice.


This pilot study aimed to examine the role that resilience might play in supporting student midwives to continue on the midwifery undergraduate programme.


Five second-year student midwives volunteered to take part in the pilot. All five students completed Wagnild's updated True Resilience Scale (TRS), and partipated in a focus group and a one-to-one interview.


One participant scored ‘moderate’ on the TRS, three ‘moderately high’ and one ‘high’. Six main themes emerged from the focus group and interviews: defining and recognising resilience; building and developing resilience through reflection; developing resilience through positive and negative encounters on the midwifery programme; the relevance of significant others; transferable resilience; and different styles of resilience.


The pilot offered insights into the significance of resilience and student midwives that will contribute to the main study. This initial study has generated some findings that are reflected in the broader resilience literature. The characteristics of resilience were articulated and the data contained examples of a range of challenges and the role resilience might play. This pilot is to be followed up by a study that will follow one cohort over the first 18 months of the midwifery programme to get a longitudinal view of the midwifery students' resilience.

The midwifery undergraduate programme is challenging; to be successful, student midwives are required to navigate both academic and clinical practice demands. To date, little is known about the experiences of student midwives and the factors that support their successful completion of the programme. The concept of resilience is now being considered as a potential trait that is required to be an effective health care practitioner. The literature reviewed to date reveals that there appears to have been no research that has studied resilience in student midwives. This paper will detail a pilot study that took place in December 2015, as part of a Doctorate of Education programme, and examined the role resilience might play for student midwives. This pilot was in preparation for the main study that will follow a cohort of student midwives during the first 18 months of their undergraduate programme.

The term ‘resilience’ is not consistently defined across the literature, although it is in common use. Some authors have suggested that an individual may have a genetic disposition to being resilient (Muller et al, 2009) whereas it is also described as something that may be developed as a result of some significant childhood experiences (Pooley and Cohen, 2010). There is, therefore, dispute as to whether resilience is an inherited personal characteristic or a trait that develops as a result of external stressors (Ahern et al, 2006). Masten et al's (2010: 214) review of resilience research considered that it has moved through four phases; they suggested that current resilience study is focused around ‘integrative ways to better understand the complex processes that lead to resilience’.

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