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The state of the midwifery workforce in Victoria – a population-based cross-sectional study of maternity managers and midwives

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      Background

      A robust, skilled midwifery workforce is integral to provision of safe maternity care. In Australia there is a lack of evidence regarding adequacy of the midwifery workforce, recruitment, retention and distribution of midwives in rural, regional, and metropolitan settings. We aimed to explore the state of the midwifery workforce in Victoria from the perspective of managers of maternity services and currently working midwives.

      Methods

      An online, population-based cross-sectional survey of midwifery managers and midwives in all Victorian public and private maternity services was conducted between March and October 2021. Questions explored midwifery staffing numbers and adequacy, recruitment, staff turnover, midwives’ years of experience, career plans, and intention to leave the profession.

      Results

      Fifty-six percent (38/68) of managers of Victorian maternity services and 1016/5134 midwives responded (20% of midwives in Victorian maternity services). Of the managers, 76% reported inadequate midwifery staffing levels in their services, with a reported combined total deficit of 135 full-time equivalent midwives. Public metropolitan hospitals had higher rates of turnover than public regional/rural services, but regional/rural services experienced a greater impact. Managers ascribed staff turnover to midwives retiring or ‘experienced’ midwives choosing to leave to seek new opportunities with better work/life balance. Most (73%) managers reported difficulties in recruiting midwives. More than half (61%) of midwives in this study were ten years or less post-qualification. One in five midwives were unsure how long they would stay in the midwifery profession, and over a quarter were planning to leave the profession in the next five years. However, almost 40% of midwives were regularly thinking about leaving the profession.

      Conclusions

      The Victorian midwifery workforce is currently inadequately staffed and lacking in experienced midwives. A significant number of midwives are considering leaving the profession. A focus on supporting recruitment and retention in urgently required.
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