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Students stand at the door: exploring views on professionalism in midwifery spaces

02 February 2023
Volume 31 · Issue 2



Midwifery students learn and adopt complex professional behaviours in a variety of academic and clinical settings throughout their educational journey. The aims of this study were to explore how midwifery students understand the concept of professionalism and how their professional identity develops during midwifery education.


A conversation about professionalism with a group of final year midwifery students was transcribed ‘in the moment’ and immediately performed to the group as poetry. Themes emerging from analysis of the conversation are also presented as poetry.


Midwifery students, moving between university and practice, emphasised the importance of close connections between these spaces and the role models in them, for learning. External constraints generated a sense of fear and stress that was seen to limit midwives' ability to properly support the needs of ‘their woman’.


The notion of ‘spaces’ is important in maternity care and developing education for future midwives. Poetry is a useful multidimensional tool in research.

Maternity care occupies different spaces in the public consciousness. For many, it is an essential and valued component of the NHS. However, in recent news and public media coverage, maternity has been criticised, with suggestions it is a broken public service (Lally, 2022; Lavallee, 2022; Vize, 2022). In particular, the consequences of serious failures in maternity care in the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust and the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust have dominated the news, captured in the Kirkup (2015) and Ockenden (2022) reports. The Morecambe Bay investigation uncovered failures and dysfunction at almost all levels in the organisation. A subsequent lessons learned review by the Professional Standards Authority (2018), independently commissioned by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), concluded that some of the investigative failures at Morecambe Bay reflected a culture at the NMC that focused on process over people (Seale and Killwick, 2019). All these concerns impact on the perception of professionalism in maternity care, a key characteristic that midwifery students are expected to develop in this challenging, contemporary context.

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