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An exploration of the development of resilience in student midwives

02 June 2021
17 min read


Student midwives have to complete a demanding programme to become a midwife, and therefore it is questioned whether they need resilience to be successful. The study's aims were to explore whether resilience developed in one cohort of 25 undergraduate student midwives and what the concept of resilience meant to them. This study adopted a longitudinal case study approach in one Higher Education Institution in England during the first 18 months of their programme. The study used Wagnild and Young's (1993) (updated 2015) True Resilience Scale©, administered on three occasions. Additionally, four focus groups were conducted twice and six participants were involved in one-to-one interviews to explore issues raised in the focus group. SPSS Pairwise comparisons revealed that there were significant differences in True Resilience Scale© scores between the first and the second completion (p=0.034), and time one and time three (p=0.002); there were no significant differences between time two and time three (p=1.0). In this cohort of student midwives, the scale showed that the majority had developed their resilience during the study and this was supported in what the students reported. A conceptual model, which defines resilience for student midwives, is presented to strengthen how resilience can be supported and developed.

Retention on midwifery undergraduate programmes has been termed the ‘wicked problem’, as there is no simple solution and is so complex that it may never be completely addressed (Rittel and Webber, 1975). The Reducing Pre-registration Attrition and Improving Retention project reported that between the academic years of 2009/2010–2014/2015, the average attrition rate for midwifery students was 13.6%, with a rate of 15.9% being the highest rate during that period (Lovegrove, 2018).

It is very costly to lose a student midwife, not only to the Higher Education Institution (HEI) but also to the NHS; however, there is little research into the multifactorial reasons why students leave the programme (Green and Baird, 2009) and how institutions try holistically to manage the whole ‘basket’ of risk factors in a holistic way to achieve lower attrition rates (Department of Health, 2006). It has been argued that there are limited data that detail the factors that lead to both attrition and retention (Green and Baird, 2009). This study explored the role of resilience for a student midwife remaining on the midwifery programme.

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