Midwife researcher challenges maternity care in Australia

A Central Queensland University postgraduate has suggested maternity care in Australia needs an overhaul to meet the needs of today's midwives and expecting parents.

Midwife and CQU Masters degree graduate Kathy Lerato believes a holistic approach to midwifery would benefit both midwives and expecting parents.

"As in all areas of nursing, midwifery is currently suffering a severe skill shortage and a continuing high turnover," Ms Lerato explained.

"My research involved looking at work environments in which midwives were most professionally satisfied.

"The results suggested that when midwives were able to coordinate the care of women and their families throughout the pregnancy, birth and post-natal period, they feel significantly more rewarded by their work.

"Both mine and overseas research suggests this type of maternity care gives midwives and their clients a greater amount of satisfaction than the current medically led maternity care.".

Ms Lerato hopes the recommendations outlined by her research will be applied in a wide range of maternity care areas.

"Already the hospital in which I work (Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne) has expanded their midwifery-led services in line with my research recommendations.".

The Department of Health in Victoria is also using Ms Lerato's research to support the push for caseload midwifery in Victorian Maternity Services.

Ms Lerato presented her research into midwifery at the Australian College of Midwives National Conference in Perth (in September this year ) where about 600 midwives attended from around Australia.

Ms Lerato has worked as a nurse for nine years, much of that time in intensive care units. She has worked in Australia, England and Canada and also managed a health clinic in Tibet where she decided to become a midwife.

"After working in intensive care where you see so much death I decided I would like to see some life," she explained.

"The look on the faces of new parents when they see their baby for the first time is indescribably beautiful. It is a privilege to be able to share in such an extraordinary time in their lives.".

Ms Lerato competed a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery in July of 2002 and continued on to complete a Master in Midwifery at Central Queensland University in January this year.

"I looked into all the available courses in midwifery before enrolling and I found CQU offered the most flexibility with an external study option.

"Working shifts made contact hours at university difficult. Without the option to study externally, I would never have been able to continue my studies and achieve my Masters.

“Further to this, CQU offered a large practical component - larger than most other university programs offered - which definitely made me more prepared to practice midwifery upon graduating."

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