The experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating to provide birthing care: a systematic review

Danielle Macdonald, Erna Snelgrove-Clarke, Marsha Campbell-Yeo, Megan Aston, Melissa Helwig, Kathy A Baker
JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 2015, 13 (11): 74-127

BACKGROUND: Collaboration has been associated with improved health outcomes in maternity care. Collaborative relationships between midwives and physicians have been a focus of literature regarding collaboration in maternity care. However despite the front line role of nurses in the provision of maternity care, there has not yet been a systematic review conducted about the experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating to provide birthing care.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review was to identify, appraise and synthesize qualitative evidence on the experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating to provide birthing care.Specifically, the review question was: what are the experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating to provide birthing care?

INCLUSION CRITERIA: This review considered studies that included educated and licensed midwives and nurses with any length of practice. Nurses who work in labor and delivery, postpartum care, prenatal care, public health and community health were included in this systematic review.This review considered studies that investigated the experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating during the provision of birthing care. Experiences, of any duration, included any interactions between midwives and nurses working in collaboration to provide birthing care.Birthing care referred to: (a) supportive care throughout the pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum, (b) administrative tasks throughout the pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum, and (c) clinical skills throughout the pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum. The postpartum period included the six weeks after delivery.The review considered English language studies that focused on qualitative data including, but not limited to, designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research and feminist research.This review considered qualitative studies that explored the experiences of collaboration in areas where midwives and nurses work together. Examples of these areas included: hospitals, birth centers, client homes, health clinics and other public or community health settings. These settings were located in any country, cultural context, or geographical location.

SEARCH STRATEGY: A three-step search strategy was used to identify relevant published and unpublished studies. English papers from 1981 onwards were considered. The following databases were searched: Anthrosource, CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library), CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, PubMed, Social Services Abstracts and Sociological Abstracts. In addition to the databases, several grey literature sources were searched.

METHODOLOGICAL QUALITY: Papers that were selected for retrieval were independently assessed for inclusion in the review by two JBI-trained reviewers. The two reviewers used a standardized critical appraisal instrument from the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument.

DATA EXTRACTION: Qualitative data were extracted from papers included in the review using the standardized data extraction tool from the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Once qualitative studies were assessed using the the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument critical appraisal tool, findings of the included studies were extracted. These findings were aggregated into categories according to their similarity in meaning. These categories were then subjected to a meta-synthesis to produce a comprehensive set of synthesized findings.

RESULTS: Five studies were included in the review. Thirty-eight findings were extracted from the included studies and were aggregated into five categories. The five categories were synthesized into two synthesized findings. The two synthesized findings were:Synthesized finding1: Negative experiences of collaboration between nurses and midwives may be influenced by distrust, lack of clear roles, or unprofessional or inconsiderate behavior.Synthesized finding 2: If midwives and nurses have positive experiences collaborating thenthere is hope that the challenges of collaboration can be overcome.

CONCLUSIONS: Qualitative evidence about the experiences of midwives and nurses collaborating to provide birthing care was identified, appraised and synthesized. Two synthesized findings were created from the findings of the five included studies. Midwives and nurses had negative experiences of collaboration which may be influenced by: distrust, unclear roles, or a lack of professionalism or consideration. Midwives and nurses had positive experiences of teamwork which can be a source of hope for overcoming the challenges of sharing care.There is clearly a gap in the literature about the collaborative experiences of midwives and nurses, given that only five studies were located for inclusion in the systematic review. More qualitative research exploring collaboration as a process and the interactional dynamics of midwives and nurses in a variety of practice and professional contexts is required.Distrust, unclear roles, and lack of professionalism and consideration must all be addressed. Strategies that address and minimize the occurrences of these three elements need to be developed and implemented in an effort to reduce negative collaborative experiences for midwives and nurses. Postive experiences of teamwork must be acknowleged and celebrated, and the challenges that sharing care present must be understood as a part of the collaborative process.More qualitative research is required to explore the collaborative process between midwives and nurses. Further exploration of their interactional dynamics, their relationship between power and collaboration, and the experiences of collaboration in a variety of professional and practice contexts is recommended.

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