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

02 October 2019
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.

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