Deery, Ruth (2005) An action research study exploring midwives' support needs and the effect of group clinical supervision. Midwifery, 21 (2). pp. 161-176. ISSN 0266-6138

Objective: to explore community midwives' views and experiences of their support needs in clinical practice, and then to identify how they would wish to receive such support. Further objectives were to redress the imbalance identified by planning and facilitating a model of clinical supervision devised by the participating midwives. Design: a qualitative study using an action-research approach based on collaboration and participation. Action research has the potential to facilitate understanding of, and is able to adapt to, changing situations within clinical practice. Data were collected in three phases using in-depth interviews and focus groups. Setting: a large maternity unit in the north of England, UK. Participants: eight National Health Service (NHS) community midwives working in the same team. Findings: recent and ongoing organisational change and increased demands placed on the midwives by their managers were found to be detrimental to the process of clinical supervision and working relationships with their peers and clients. These pressures also inhibited the process of change. The midwives' behaviour and coping strategies revealed an apparent lack of understanding on their part, and that of their midwifery managers, of the regulation of emotion and the amount of energy this generated. Pseudo-cohesion and resistance to change were key defence mechanisms used by the participating midwives. Key conclusions: a large amount of published literature supported the existence of stress and burnout in midwifery, but no research addressed ways of alleviating this situation. Effective facilitation of midwifery support is needed, which can be met through support mechanisms such as clinical supervision. During the process of clinical supervision, strong messages emerged about the necessity to ensure that midwives are prepared educationally for the difficult situations that are brought about through collaborative working. There are also messages about the cultural legacy of NHS midwifery and how this can inhibit autonomous behaviour by midwives. Implications for practice: developing and increasing self-awareness is still not viewed as being intrinsic to the work of the midwife, and midwives are being asked to undertake a level of work for which they have not been adequately prepared. The bureaucratic pressures of working in a large maternity unit exaggerate this further. In this situation, the system is seen as more important than the midwives.

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