JOURNAL ARTICLE

Bachelor of Midwifery students' experiences of achieving competencies: the role of the midwife preceptor

Sharon Licqurish, Camel Seibold
Midwifery 2008, 24 (4): 480-9
17869393

OBJECTIVES: to explore and describe Bachelor of Midwifery students' learning experiences, specifically the role of the midwifery preceptor in learning and development of competency, from the students' perspective. The findings reported are taken from a wider investigation into Bachelor of Midwifery student's achievement of competency.

DESIGN: grounded theory methodology using in-depth interviews for data collection.

SETTING: school of nursing and midwifery of one university, and associated clinical teaching hospitals in Victoria, Australia.

PARTICIPANTS: eight Bachelor of Midwifery students completing their final clinical placement.

FINDINGS: data analysis in the broader study identified the categories of: hands-on practice; reflecting on practice; building confidence; gaining knowledge; working with midwives; and constructing a sense of self as a midwife. This paper focuses on one category 'working with midwives', which encompasses the therapeutic, interpersonal and clinical characteristics of the preceptor and their impact on student learning. Generally speaking, students identified midwife preceptors as helpful and unhelpful, and students indicated that they prefer to work with a caring midwife preceptor, who enjoys teaching, answers questions fairly and is philosophically similar. Students also felt that they benefited from opportunities for responsibility for care under supportive supervision, hands-on learning and debriefing. Midwife preceptors described as unhelpful were poor role models, did not allow the space for 'hands-on' practice or 'took over', were generally unsupportive and operated in a hierarchical system within the clinical agencies.

KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: a positive midwife preceptor-student relationship is an integral part of successful student midwife learning, and preceptors with helpful qualities enhance learning. Hands-on learning was emphasised as the most beneficial learning experience and students sought opportunities to work with midwives who imbued the philosophy they admired rather than becoming desensitised or socialised into a midwifery culture that was at odds with the course's philosophy. These findings are potentially useful to inform midwives and agencies teaching student midwives about preceptor behaviours helpful for student midwife learning.

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