A qualitative study exploring midwives' perceptions and views of extending their role to the examination of the newborn baby
Objectives: to explore midwives' attitudes and perceptions about extending their role to the examination of the newborn baby, as well as their general perceptions and attitudes to new role developments. Design: qualitative, data collected using semi-structured interviews, which were exploratory and interactive in form. Setting: six maternity hospitals in South-east England. Participants: ten midwives were purposively selected, including five trained in the examination of the newborn baby and currently conducting examinations and five who had not. Most of the midwives had been qualified for over ten years and had a wide range of clinical experience in hospital and community settings. Findings: midwives identified many benefits to themselves, to their profession and to the mothers as a result of developing their role into the examination of the newborn baby. The major benefit cited was improved job satisfaction, which was directly related to their ability to give continuity and total care to mothers and babies. Midwives also perceived that undertaking the examination strengthened their position as autonomous practitioners, by enabling them to provide total care to mothers and babies who fitted their criteria of normality. Moreover, midwives thought that improvements in the overall quality of care to mothers would result from them performing the examination, including improved communication, greater continuity of care and a more holistic examination. Although midwives were concerned about possible increase in workloads and pressure to take on new roles, the examination was generally perceived as being easily incorporated into their current practice without compromising overall standards in midwifery care. Midwives expressed concern about ‘extending’ practice into areas that did not fit their perceptions of normality and about being ‘pressurised’ into taking on new roles. Implications for practice: it would appear from this study that an important consideration for midwives in their acceptance of new roles, is the relationship of that role to their position as experts in normality. Midwives in this study viewed the examination of the newborn baby as ‘fitting in’ with their perceptions of the core values of midwifery.