Future clinical academic midwife
Clinical academic career pathways for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals are a strategic priority for NHS England, and there has been significant investment in the National Institute of Health Research integrated clinical academic programme for non-medical healthcare professionals. Nurses, midwives and allied health professionals face numerous barriers to successfully building a clinical academic career. For those outside the integrated clinical academic programme, clinical academic career approaches are varied and often driven by individual practitioners rather than robust organisational processes or strategy. The vision of ‘future midwife’ is that midwives maximise opportunities in research and scholarship. However, there is little clarity about how these academic aspirations may be supported. This reflective lived experience discussion paper explores key issues around clinical academic midwifery careers, including how space for clinical academic midwives can be assured and the steps midwives can take to start to develop this rewarding and important career.
Professional priorities for the next generation of midwives are wedded to the notion of combined excellence as a colleague, scholar and leader. The aspirations for ‘future midwife’ described in the Nursing and Midwifery Council (2019) standards of proficiency for midwives suggest that midwives across the board are critical thinkers, able to problem solve, act as a role model and lead, and that such a skillset is key to building effective and safe midwifery services. In pursuit of excellence, midwives will be encouraged in scholarly activity and be able to critically appraise and engage with the evidence to drive improvement. The standards recognise that midwives will be able to develop careers encompassing practice, education, research, leadership, management and policy. Rospopa and Pezaro (2020) cite the commitment to academic achievement for midwives that is needed to realise this vision. However, a lack of clarity about how midwives can build academic skills and experience may threaten its success. Reflecting on personal experience, this article will discuss some of the pertinent issues and steps that can be taken by midwives to progress in a clinical academic midwifery career.
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