What does it mean for midwives to practice sustainably?

Midwifery is not alone in facing challenges retaining people within the profession. Those employed in the ‘caring’ professions frequently report that the work provides great personal satisfaction but can also be demanding and stressful, and this can take its toll. Issues around funding, systems, and scope of practice can all add pressures.

Principal Lecturer Lorna Davies has been investigating sustainability in the midwifery profession for several years now. Starting with the traditional three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability, she has found that indigenous worldview models encompassing cultural and spiritual sustainability offer the most holistic and sustainable framework for practice. Lorna's research has revealed that midwives are often fearful of threats to their practice, and she identified a need for systemic change to address this. She has also found that there are some steps that midwives can take personally to support themselves in practice, for example mindfulness can be helpful in terms of sustaining self.

Lorna recommends:

  • Making time for oneself, to spend doing things that re-energise you, for self-sustainability;
  • Maintaining awareness of the bigger picture, to contribute to and prepare for changes that affect the whole profession; and
  • Building mutual understanding, respect and cooperation across the many disciplines of health professionals and others involved in the birth sphere.

Midwifery is fundamentally a sustainable profession as its longevity bears testimony to, but a holistic approach is needed for truly sustainable practice and this involves consideration of economic, sociocultural and environmental costs. 

May 2022