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Experiences of newly qualified midwives working in clinical practice during their transition period

02 September 2021
14 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 9

Abstract

Background

With greater numbers of midwives being trained to counteract the predicted shortages, it seems that it is now more vital than ever to explore how newly qualified midwives (NQMs) describe their experiences in the clinical environment, the support they have received, and identify barriers to their development during the transition period.

Aim

The aim of this study was to explore NQMs experiences of working clinically during the transition from student to qualified midwife.

Method

Using a qualitative approach, eight NQMs participated in semi-structured interviews.

Findings

The findings revealed four key themes that sum up the NQMs experiences: expectations and realities of the role; creating conditions for professional growth; the impact of the care environment; and limitations to creating a healthful culture.

Conclusions

The clearly articulated journey that has been described by the NQMs demonstrated that there is both a need and desire to change, improve and develop the transition period for all new midwives working in clinical practice. Consideration needs to be given to more robust guidance, with some ideas for development, such as support forums for NQMs to meet up on a regular basis; advanced planned rotation with flexibility; a named preceptor/‘buddy’ in each clinical area; and a shared online forum to allow the NQMs to discuss and share experiences, and to signpost to any useful information or learning opportunities available.

It is widely reported in the literature that the transition period from being a student to becoming a newly qualified nurse (NQN) or newly qualified midwife (NQM) is a critical period in the new graduate's working life. It is during this time the newly qualified registrant has to undergo significant learning and adjustments within their preceptorship period, in order to have a successful transition and deliver high quality care (McDonald et al, 2009; Davis et al, 2012; Missen et al, 2015). The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2020) has recently published its guidance document on preceptorship and the principles which underpin transitioning from student to newly qualified practitioner with the expectation that workplaces have in place systems and processes to support and build confidence of NQNs and NQMs.

Studies reveal that NQNs can find the transition period to be a time of anxiety and stress when coupled with increased autonomy, responsibility and accountability (Foster and Ashwin, 2014). A Royal College of Midwives ([RCM], 2016) workforce report indicates that over 40% of midwives in Northern Ireland are aged 50 years and over, which in real terms suggests that there is a major need to train and employ more midwives for the future delivery of maternity services in Northern Ireland. Speaking at the ‘Maternity Transformation Programme: Two years on’, the Health Secretary promised the ‘largest-ever’ increase in NHS midwives, with a plan to train more than 3 000 extra midwives over the next four years (RCM, 2018).

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