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Title: Midwives’ emotion and body work in two hospital settings : personal strategies and professional projects
Author: Rayment, Juliet
ISNI:       0000 0004 2703 9570
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
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Much has been written in recent years of a ‘crisis’ in the recruitment and retention of midwives in the NHS. The crisis has been attributed variously to burnout, a lack of professional autonomy, a bullying culture, and an ideological conflict between the way in which midwives wish to practise and the way they are required to practise within large bureaucratic institutions, such as NHS Trusts. Negotiating these experiences requires a significant amount of emotional labour by midwives, which they may find intolerable. This thesis explores the strategies NHS midwives deploy in order to continue working in NHS maternity services when many of their colleagues are leaving. It examines the extent to which working in a midwife-led service rather than a consultant-led service helps or hinders midwives’ capacity to manage the emotional and ideological demands of their practice. Ethnographic fieldwork was carried out in a consultant unit and an Alongside Midwife-led Unit (AMU) in two NHS Trusts in England. The findings from negotiated interactive observation and in-depth unstructured interviews with eighteen midwives were analysed using inductive ethnographic principles. In order to ameliorate the emotional distress they experienced, the midwives used coping strategies to organise the people and spaces around them. These strategies of organisation and control were part of a personal and professional project which they found almost impossible to articulate because it ran contrary to the ideals of the midwifery discourse. Midwives explained these coping strategies as firstly, necessary in order to deal with institutional constraints and regulations; secondly, out of their control and thirdly, destructive and bad for midwifery. In practice it appeared that the midwives played a role in sustaining these strategies because they formed part of a wider professional project to promote their personal and professional autonomy. These coping strategies were very similar in the Consultant Unit and the Midwifery Unit. A midwife-led service provided the midwives with a space within which to nurture their philosophy of practice. This provided some significant benefits for their emotional wellbeing, but it also polarised them against the neighbouring Delivery Suite. The resulting poor relationships profoundly affected their capacity to provide a service congruent with their professional ideals. This suggests that whilst Alongside Midwife-led Units may attempt to promote a midwifery model of care and a good working environment for midwives, their proximity to consultant-led services compounds the ideological conflict the midwives experience. The strength of their philosophy may have the unintended consequence of silencing open discussion about the negative influence on women of the strategies the midwives use to compensate for ideological conflict and a lack of institutional and professional support.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain) (ESRC) (PTA−031−2006−00332)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RG Gynecology and obstetrics