Contemporary issues in Australian midwifery regulation.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian health review : a publication of the Australian Hospital Association, 2001, 24 (4), pp. 103 - 118
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This paper reports on research that examined the Nurses' Acts, regulations and current policies of each state and territory in Australia, in order to determine their adequacy in regulating the education and practice of midwifery. This is part of a three-year study (Australian Midwifery Action Project) set up to identify and investigate barriers to midwifery within the provision of mainstream maternity services in Australia. Through an in-depth examination and comparison of key factors in the various statutes, the paper identifies their effect on contemporary midwifery roles and practices. The work assessed whether the current regulatory system that subsumes midwifery into nursing is adequate in protecting the public appropriately and ensuring that minimum professional standards are met. This is of particular importance in Australia, where many maternity health care services are seeking to maximise midwives' contributions through the development of new models of care that increase midwives' autonomy and level of accountability. A lack of consistency and evidence of discrepancies in the standards of midwifery education and practice regulation nationally are identified. When these are considered alongside the planned development of a three-year Bachelor of Midwifery, due to be introduced into Australia in mid-2002, there exists an urgent need for regulatory change. The need is also identified for appropriate national midwifery competency standards that meet consumer, employer and practitioner expectations, which can be used to guide state and territory regulations. We argue the importance of a need for change in the view and legal positioning of the Australian Nursing Council and all Nurses Boards regarding the identification of midwifery as distinct from nursing, and substantiate it with a rationale for a national and consistent approach to midwifery regulation.
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