Program boosts midwifery numbers

A new program is assisting qualified midwives in South Australia to regain their confidence by refreshing their vital skills and knowledge in clinical settings.

Australian midwifery registration numbers declined from 2018 to 2023. The reasons for this are multifactorial, but retirement and failure to attract new midwives play a role. As midwives leave the profession, so does their experience, replacing them leaves a gap in institutional experience and clinical knowledge and skills.

The RESET-M pilot program established by Flinders University, Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN)  and Your Nursing Agency (YNA) is an innovative retraining program that enables midwives who have not worked clinically for a while, to catch up on vital knowledge and skills and supports their swift effective return to the workforce.

Australian regulations currently require midwives out of practise for 5 or more years to complete a formal refresher course approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia to be active on the register.

However, many midwives who have not worked in a clinical setting before the 5-year period lose confidence or hesitate to return to maternity wards, where conditions can change quickly in a high pressure environment.

Five midwives are currently undertaking a short course in the clinical labs and simulation suite at the Flinders University Sturt campus to get up to speed on new practices. They will complete two paid supernumerary clinical shifts at the Lyell McEwin Hospital after the workshops (funded by YNA), with the support of the university and NAHLN clinical staff.

The midwives, employed and insured by YNA, will then undertake 8 shifts over 3 months in selective maternity wards at Lyell McEwin Hospital to complete their retraining process.

Zoe Yates, RESET-M program participant
and Sally Haskard, Lead educator.

The re-entry program is funded by a partnership grant from Flinders University, YNA and NAHLN with the aim of supporting clinical opportunities that enhance midwives confidence in rejoining the ageing workforce.

The RESET-M pilot lead investigator, Dr Megan Cooper, at Flinders University, says the aim of the program is to support midwives who have the ambition and drive to return to clinical midwifery practice to regain confidence in their knowledge and skill base. Re-engagement of skilled clinicians will reduce attrition and increase workforce numbers.

“Currently, there is no intervention in South Australia that supports midwives to return to the clinical environment when they leave the workforce temporarily, for example, if they have a family or follow another career path in education. The RESET-M program is specifically designed to enable participants to regain midwifery knowledge and skills to enhance their confidence in returning to clinical midwifery practice. If successful, there is potential for the program to be rolled out in other local health networks, and modified for other disciplines in the health service.”

“The program reinforces key midwifery skills and covers clinical updates, protocol changes, obstetric emergencies, and the latest midwifery research to inform best practice. Content is aligned with the Midwife Standards for Practice and the National Safety and Quality Health Care Service Standards. We really hope to address current staff retention challenges in health services to grow the pool of midwives in SA.”

RESET-M Project lead and Chief Investigator Dr Megan Cooper.

Pilot study investigator, Kate Hepburn-Brown at Your Nursing Agency, says YNA have been supporting midwives to return to clinical practice and gain confidence in informal ways for some time.

“We have been looking for a more structured way to support our staff. We feel so privileged to be engaged in this partnership as we know the results from this program and the opportunities from this frame work will be positive and supportive for midwives and the workforce. YNA can already see the potential for this program nationally and in other clinical sectors in the future and that is really exciting.”

NALHN Divisional Director Nursing and Midwifery, Meredith Hobbs, says returning to a clinical environment after an extended period can be daunting.

“In nursing and midwifery especially, the landscape is ever-evolving with the introduction of new techniques, research, policies and technology to ensure we continue delivering high-quality patient care.:

“While welcoming new midwives to the profession is important, so too is retaining experienced staff who can support and develop the next generation.”

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Flinders University and Your Nursing Agency on this unique pilot program, offering a quick pathway for experienced midwives to re-join the workforce, while making sure they are supported each step of the way.”

Dr Megan Cooper, RESET-M Educator and Investigator Fiona Dillon, Lead Educator and Research Assistant Sally Haskard and Senior Lab Technician and Educator Angie Sterland.
Posted in
College of Nursing and Health Sciences News Research