Back to the future: midwives' experiences of undertaking a return to midwifery practice programme
Midwives returning to practice is considered to be an important recruitment initiative. Refresher programmes are generally required by returning midwives; however, there is a paucity of current research on the success of these programmes.
To explore the experiences of registered midwives undertaking a return to midwifery practice programme in Ireland, and the effectiveness of the programme in preparing and returning midwives to practice.
A mixed-methods approach was used including data collection through questionnaire, focus groups and interviews. Nine midwives undertaking a return to midwifery practice programme were included in the study.
A passion for midwifery is a key driver for returning to practice. Returning midwives have unique learning and support needs yet they do not always receive the appropriate support. In total, 62% of midwives did not return to midwifery practice on programme completion. Challenges were encountered when seeking employment opportunities to consolidate knowledge and skills gained on the return to midwifery practice programme.
Return to midwifery practice programmes need to be tailored and clinical staff need to be adequately prepared to provide the required support. As a recruitment strategy, current emphasis is on the education component. However, equal emphasis needs to be placed on employment pathways on programme completion if this initiative is to be effective at returning midwives back to the workforce.
Midwifery shortages are a global issue (World Health Organization, 2018). Maintaining an adequate and competent workforce is a major challenge for health service providers. An increasingly important component of workforce strategy, introduced by employers, is directed at encouraging midwives to return to the workforce.
Economically, recruiting midwives back to practice is deemed to be more cost- and time-effective than training at undergraduate level (Alden and Carozza, 1997; Payne, 2010). The midwifery profession also benefits as the returning midwives bring with them life experience, skills and maturity which are seen as assets in promoting autonomy and leadership in clinical practice (Payne, 2010; NHS, 2014). Yet, there are mixed reports as to how successful this recruitment strategy is at returning midwives back to practice.
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