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Mary Kensington [MPH] 2005


This research examines the experiences of nine graduate midwives who were mentored in their first year of self-employed practice. The reshaped maternity services in New Zealand entitle every woman to have her own Lead Maternity Carer who provides continuity of care throughout the woman's childbirth experience. Currently over 70% of women choose a midwife as their lead carer. Education of midwives is through a three-year degree programme and many graduates move into self-employed practice as soon as they qualify.

Being a self-employed midwife carrying a caseload can involve a range of personal and professional stresses. Midwives moving into self-employed practice, although registered competent to practice, have identified that they require support in discussing professional issues and to help establish confidence. Mentoring is the term used in New Zealand to describe the process of supporting midwives in self-employed practice. The purpose of this thesis is to explain the development of mentoring in New Zealand midwifery and its significance for both midwives and midwifery practice.

The research uses a feminist phenomenological approach, which has allowed me to honour and respect what the midwives shared with me. In-depth one-to-one interviews were used to collect data that traced the liminal journey the midwife makes in becoming an autonomous practitioner and the importance of a supportive mentoring relationship in assisting this journey.

Findings report on the mentoring partnership and how midwives organised and set this up, focusing on important qualities to consider when choosing a mentor, what made the relationship work and the question of payment. Findings also include exploration of why there is a need for such a supportive relationship, and the role of mentors in building confidence of graduates moving into self-employed practice. Midwives appear to want a short period of intensive support provided by a mentor with whom they feel safe and comfortable and who is always available. There is exploration of the mentored midwives' understanding of self-responsibility and accountability within the context of independent practice. Midwives understand their responsibilities and for them the role of the mentor is to provide a guiding hand as they make the transition from student to midwife.

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