Student midwives' experiences of clinical placement and the decision to enter the professional register
In addition to the high rate of attrition among registered midwives, student midwives are increasingly likely to choose to leave their programme, decreasing the projected number of midwives who would join the NHS. The aim of this study was to understand how students experience clinical practice and if these experiences affect their decision to enter the professional register.
Seven student midwives who had experienced clinical placement as part of their pre-registration training were invited to attend semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed following an interpretive phenomonology approach, where descriptive, linguistic and conceptual comments on the transcripts were used to identify emergent themes.
The 79 identified themes were categorised into five sub-themes within two super-ordinate themes: ‘kindness and compassion grows future midwives and strength’ and ‘resolve through COVID-19 and beyond’. The overarching theme from the participants' interviews was ‘I can be a good midwife when I qualify’.
Students want to feel like they will be good midwives, which will be achieved with positive attitudes and behaviours towards them from senior staff during clinical placements. Staff involved with the care of women and newborns should ensure they show students civility and patience while teaching and supporting them. Understanding the level of knowledge that students possess can make it simpler for staff to recognise what each student may or may not have been exposed to.
Poor outcomes in maternity services have been well documented in the media, including examples such as the Morecambe Bay (Kirkup, 2015) and Shrewsbury and Telford (Ockenden, 2022) hospital trust investigations. More recently, the media has followed midwives speaking out about poor quality care and unsafe working conditions caused by the staffing crisis (Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 2023). The ‘March for Midwives’ movement highlighted how workload and poor working conditions impact quality of patient care (King, 2021), while the United Nations Population Fund (2021) estimated that there was a global shortage of 900 000 midwives. England alone has a shortage of 2500 full-time midwives (Bona, 2023). A UK survey of almost 2000 midwives reported that they experienced emotional distress, burnout, stress, anxiety and depression (Hunter et al, 2019). Two thirds (66.6%) of midwives had considered leaving the profession (Hunter et al, 2019).
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