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Laura Aileone, MPH 2009


This research sought to explore issues of recruitment and retention for midwives working within the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB). Midwifery has been identified by the New Zealand Department of Labour as having a 'genuine skill shortage' and the occupation is currently listed on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage. Currently, there is a shortage of midwives both nationally and internationally, and the demand for midwives is expected to increase. The midwifery workforce is aging with over half the current New Zealand workforce due to retire within the next ten years.

There is a paucity of research in this area in New Zealand and it is envisaged that this dissertation will provide valuable information for the midwifery sector. In so doing, it may provide insight for both management within the CDHB and wider midwifery employers by addressing the issue of retention of employed midwifery staff, whilst also addressing areas which could improve recruitment of midwives to the maternity workforce.

The research used a qualitative methodology as it sought to explore midwives' views on issues of recruitment and retention. Information was gathered via in-depth interviews of ten participants; five midwives who had left the CDHB in the last twenty-four months and five who were currently employed by the CDHB. The interviews were audio taped, transcribed, and then analysed using critical thematic analysis.

Three main themes emerged from the results. Firstly, ensuring supportive management systems within the work environment was identified as an area requiring more attention in the midwifery sector. The second theme identified support for professional development through further education and the development of further career options for employed midwives. The third and final theme, was the need to have systems in place for debriefing and support, especially following traumatic events.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this research are that there are multiple environmental influences which motivate an employed midwife to leave or remain in employment. It is recommended that flexibility be given around shift times and duration for employed midwives. It is also recommended that communication strategies and formal debriefing processes be established as system approaches for supporting midwives. In developing communication processes it is recommended that a Director of Midwifery role be established which is directly responsible for ensuring comprehensive communication processes between the Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand College of Midwives, the Midwifery Council of New Zealand and both independent and employed midwives in Canterbury. Furthermore, this study recommends the further development of career pathways for employed midwives as well as the development and adhering to safe staffing ratios for midwives within a secondary/ tertiary environment. The above recommendations reflect the strategic, system wide approaches which, if taken, could result in both a higher recruitment and retention rate for midwives within the CDHB.

Supervisors:Gillian Abel, Suzanne Pitama

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