A finalist in the Research or Innovative Practice category of the 2013 WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards, Western Australia’s first-ever Professor of Midwifery, Yvonne Hauck, isn’t resting on her laurels – she’s looking to the future.
I’ve been Western Australia’s first Professor of Midwifery for almost three years – a joint appointment between Curtin University and King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH). I’ve spent more than three decades working in maternal and child health in Canada and Australia, and this current role is a joy, as it involves working collaboratively with students and midwives to increase our contributions to midwifery research. A key focus of mine is promoting midwifery research by supporting higher degree students who are midwives completing their master or PhD degrees.
As with every clinical profession, not every clinician needs to conduct research, but they must be consumers of research to allow translation of evidence into clinical practice. Therefore we need a small, enthusiastic team in WA to guide midwifery research for the future. For example, Lucy Lewis, (a midwifery research fellow at Curtin) and I are doing a pilot project with young pregnant women between the age of 16 and 24 who smoke cigarettes. We asked these women, using a hypothetical scenario, what challenges they would have to overcome to stop smoking and what could assist them. From that information, we put together a suite of interventions; that research is still in progress.
Another current project involves evaluating parent education sessions offered through midwifery models of care at KEMH. We want to offer more father-inclusive education so that men feel information provided is appropriate to their needs as new parents. We are evaluating a ‘dads only’ session facilitated by a man, as research suggests men may feel more comfortable there than in a mixed gender group.
I’ve been researching breastfeeding for more than 18 years, but I’m also interested in research on birth experiences and health outcomes from homebirths, caesarean section and water births, antenatal care in hospital, and parent education during pregnancy. Having a consultancy in the Mental Health Early Life Program at North Metropolitan Health Service, Mental Health, allows me to research aspects concerning women’s mental health across the childbearing period. We have recently completed a study looking at the sexual and reproductive health needs of women attending community mental health services.
When midwives join KEMH in the graduate program, in their first year in practice one graduate is given the opportunity to work with my research team, one day a week. This is a highlight of my role, as it involves bringing in the new generation of midwives, involving them in research while they’re working clinically, and ensuring they are not daunted by it. We aim to give them confidence to do more research in the future, to develop their enquiring minds. Effective midwifery research requires a partnership with midwives at the coalface. At KEMH, I have research assistant positions available to encourage a small number of midwives to work with me on different research projects. I want to support their engagement in research that is relevant to clinical practice.
There is a need to educate the community about the role of the midwife, who some people can mistakenly refer to as nurses. Although some choose a midwifery pathway after being a nurse, those interested in being a midwife can complete a direct-entry option, such as the Bachelor of Science (Midwifery) course offered at Curtin. We also want the public to understand that nurses and midwives are recognised as unique professions with different roles.
All knowledge gained from our research into midwifery helps Western Australian women to make informed decisions around their choices in childbirth, and facilitates optimum health outcomes for women and infants. That’s what I want to be able to do.