Andrew S, McVicar A, Zanganeh M, Henderson N. Self-efficacy and relevance of bioscience for nursing, midwifery and healthcare students. J Clin Nurs. 2015; 24:(19-20)2965-2972

Cambridge Dictionary. 2019. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Cho E, Sloane DM, Kim EY, Kim S, Choi M, Yoo IY, Lee HS, Aiken LH. Effects of nurse staffing, work environments, and education on patient mortality: an observational study. Int J Nurs Stud. 2015; 52:(2)535-542

Clancy J, McVicar A, Bird D. Getting it right? An exploration of issues relating to the biological sciences in nurse education and nursing practice. J Adv Nurs. 2000; 32:(6)1522-1532

Davis GM. What is provided and what the registered nurse needs — bioscience learning through the pre-registration curriculum. Nurse Educ Today. 2010; 30:(8)707-712

Friedel JM, Treagust DF. Learning bioscience in nursing education: perceptions of the intended and the prescribed curriculum. Learn Health Soc Care. 2005; 4:(4)203-216

Hundley V, Cadée F, Jokinen M. Editorial midwifery special issue on education: A call to all the world's midwife educators!. Midwifery. 2018; 64:(1)122-123

International Confederation of Midwives. Definition of midwifery. 2017. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Jordan S, Philpin S, Davies S, Andrade M. The biological sciences in mental health nursing: stakeholders' perspectives. J Adv Nurs. 2000; 32:(4)881-891

, 15th edition. In: Macdonald S, Johnson G (editors). Edinburgh: Elsevier; 2017

MBRRACE-UK. Saving lives, improving mothers' care. Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK. 2017. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Molesworth M, Lewitt M. Preregistration nursing students' perspectives on the learning, teaching and application of bioscience knowledge within practice. J Clin Nurs. 2016; 25:(5-6)725-732

Nursing and Midwifery Council. Future midwife. 2019a. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. Future midwife: standards of proficiency for midwives - draft. 2019b. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Perkins C. Enhanced bioscience content is urgently needed in UK pre-registration nursing curricula. Nurse Educ Pract. 2019; 34:7-11

Prowse MA, Heath V. Working collaboratively in health care contexts: the influence of bioscientific knowledge on patient outcomes. Nurse Educ Today. 2005; 25:(2)132-139

Healthcare professionals' views about safety in maternity services. 2008. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Smith J, Noble H. Reviewing the literature: Table 1. Evid Based Nurs. 2016; 19:(1)2-3

Taylor V, Ashelford S, Fell P, Goacher PJ. Biosciences in nurse education: is the curriculum fit for practice? Lecturers' views and recommendations from across the UK. J Clin Nurs. 2015; 24:(19-20)2797-2806

World Health Organization. Nursing and midwifery in the history of the world health organisation 1948-2017. 2017. (accessed 2 May 2019)

Does ‘the bioscience problem’ need to be investigated within midwifery?

02 October 2019
5 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 10


Excellent bioscience education is required in midwifery to understand normal physiology of childbirth and neonatal adaptations to life, complications that may arise, pre-existing medical conditions and relevant pharmacology. The childbearing population is becoming more medically complex and the new draft ‘Standards of Proficiency for Midwives’ requires midwives to possess a high level of bioscience knowledge. Within nursing ‘the bioscience problem’ has been studied, and suggests insufficient bioscience knowledge within the workforce, leading to poorer staff confidence and patient outcomes. Does ‘the bioscience problem’ need to be investigated within midwifery?

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) define midwifery as working in partnership with women to provide holistic care which optimises normal biological mechanisms and cultural experiences of childbirth (ICM, 2017). Although this definition remains relevant, the knowledge-base required to provide competent care and safeguard normality is changing (Nursing and Midwifery Council [NMC], 2019a). Simultaneously, due to advancements in modern medicine and changes to public health, the UK childbearing population is presenting to maternity services with an increasing range of medical comorbidities (Smith and Dixon, 2008).

Excellent bioscience education in midwifery is essential for understanding the normal physiology of childbirth and neonatal adaptations to life, complications that may arise, pre-existing medical conditions, and relevant pharmacology (Macdonald and Johnson, 2017). Bioscience refers to the science of living things and for the purposes of this proposal encompasses: human anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and immunology (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019). The new draft ‘Standards of Proficiency for Midwives’ produced by the NMC demonstrate a huge shift in the knowledge and skills expected to competently provide holistic care for women (NMC, 2019b). Much discussion has emerged surrounding the direction that midwifery education may now take (Hundley et al, 2018) and this article aims to address whether there is a case for enhanced bioscience content within undergraduate midwifery curricula.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month