A story of scrutiny and fear: Australian midwives' experinences of an external review of obstetric services, being involved with litigation and the impact on clinical practice

Churchill Livingstone
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2010, 26 (3)
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Objectives to describe Australian midwives experiences of an external review of obstetric services, involvement in legal proceedings and the impact on midwives clinical practice and personal wellbeing. Background the external review process (commonly referred to as the `Douglas Inquiry) was initiated by a state government and was in response to hospital staff and consumer complaints that focused on anomalies in client care and a significantly high rate of adverse outcomes and clinical errors. It took place within the context of a number of legal proceedings against medical practitioners. As a result, some midwives employed by the hospital were called to give evidence at a variety of legal forums. Design a qualitative study using an explorative descriptive design. Snowball sampling was used to invite 16 Australian midwives to participate in a tape-recorded interview. Thematic analysis and the techniques associated with constant comparison were used to analyse the data. Setting Australian maternity tertiary referral centre. Findings the analysis identified two overarching themes, `A story of scrutiny and `A story of fear, each with a number of subthemes. `A story of scrutiny consists of three subthemes. `A cloak and dagger affair reflects the midwives sense of being and feeling `exposed and `vulnerable whilst simultaneously being `kept in the dark and uninformed during the review process. The subtheme `Being thrown to the wolves describes the midwives experiences of being involved, as witnesses, in medico-legal proceedings. The third subtheme, `The Inquiry followed them home outlines the effect on midwives emotional wellbeing and personal relationships. The second major theme, `A story of fear again consists of a number of subthemes.
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