The views of maternity care stakeholders on midwives' autonomy and its potential impact for midwifery education
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Department Health Care, Brussels Centre for Healthcare Innovation, Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Department of Public Health, Biostatistics and Medical Informatics Research group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Lindenhofgruppe, Bern, Switzerland
Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Department of Teacher Education, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Publication date: 2023-10-24
Corresponding author
Joeri Vermeulen   

Department Health Care, Brussels Centre for Healthcare Innovation, Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Eur J Midwifery 2023;7(Supplement 1):A168
While the views of Belgian midwives on their professional autonomy recently is explored, the views of other stakeholders in maternity care on midwives’ autonomy is unknown. This study therefore aims to explore the views of multiple stakeholders in Belgian maternity care on midwives' professional autonomy and its potential impact for midwifery education.

Material and Methods:
We used online synchronous focus group interviews to gather data from health professionals, policy advisors, hospital managers and consumers. Data analysis included a thematic analysis: transcription of recordings, familiarising with the data and coding into recurrent and common themes.

A heterogenous group of 27 stakeholders involved in maternity care participated (n= 12 health professionals, 3 policy advisors, 4 hospital managers and 8 consumers). Health professionals were represented by obstetricians, paediatricians, general practitioners and a nurse. The findings of this study revealed that education, competence, experience, safety and collaboration are prerequisites for midwives' professional autonomy. In this presentation we elaborate on the identified theme ‘The autonomous midwife is adequately educated and committed to continuous professional further education’. Stakeholders suggested various ways to optimise midwifery education and professional training. Some stakeholders suggested to include additional topics in undergraduate midwifery education, early risk detection and referral are the most mentioned. However, most stakeholders agreed that it might be challenging to include all learning contents, that are considered necessary, in an already compact midwifery education programme. Majority of stakeholders did not clearly indicate how midwifery education would need adjustment. Nevertheless, they all believe in continuous professional development of all midwives. These further professional training courses should be mandatory, tailored to up to date scientific knowledge and accredited. Additionally, some referred to master’ level postgraduate education aiming at the acquisition of advanced midwifery competences. To facilitate interprofessional collaboration between maternity care professionals, stakeholders strongly recommended to embed interprofessional courses in undergraduate and continuous professional development education. Healthcare students and professionals from different disciplines are challenged to learn about, from and with each other in a safe learning environment. Stakeholders are convinced that the established connections enhances confidence and facilitates interprofessional collaboration in maternity care teams.

While it remains unclear how exactly midwifery education would need adjustment, stakeholders particularly believe in the idea of continuous professional development and postgraduate education for all. There is consensus that all continuous professional development courses should be tailored to up to date scientific knowledge and are accredited by a supervisory authority. The structural involvement of healthcare students and professionals in midwifery education needs consideration to promote interprofessional collaboration in education and maternity care.

The authors thank all the stakeholders and content experts for their contribution to this study.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
This research was not funded and received ethical approval from University Hospital Brussels and Vrije Universiteit Brussel in August 2022 (registration number: B.U.N. 143/202/100/0490).
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