Engaging critically with the concept of advancing professional practice
The concept of advancing professional practice is pivotal to the development of midwifery practice and should not be confused with simply extending the midwife's role. This article takes a critical stance in examining the concept within the context of midwifery practice. It emphasises the importance of integrating theoretical, empirical and practical knowledge to enable this to be achieved.
In recent years, the role of the midwife has been expanded beyond what was traditionally seen as its core responsibilities. This has been in response to a number of service demands and the changing health service landscape. Whether this is appropriate has been much debated by the midwifery profession. Therefore, this article will critically examine the concept of advancing professional practice in the context of midwifery practice.
The midwifery career frameworks in all four UK countries identify a range of levels of practice and the need to develop new, and redesign existing, career pathways (Scottish Executive, 2001; Department of Health, 2004; Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery, 2006; Welsh Assembly Government, 2009). The frameworks have a dual purpose of meeting the needs of service users and promoting the continued professional development of NHS staff. They describe and define the knowledge and skills required to deliver high-quality, evidence-based patient care to meet employer requirements as well as outlining a step-wise career progression. While the frameworks are concerned with the application of knowledge and levels of proficiency, there is little detail of midwifery-specific knowledge (Jasper, 2006). The overall content is concerned more with meeting user expectations than professional development.
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