Maternity unit design study part 4 : midwives’ perception of staff facilities and their sense of wellbeing in their working environment.
Symon A, Paul J, Butchart M, Carr V and Gugard P
British Journal of Midwifery (2008) 16(4) 18-23

This paper takes a little while to read through, because of the details gathered from its information-gathering technique, i.e. focus group discussions and questionnaire survey of 227 midwives in England.

As the authors point out, the Department of Health had in 2000, budgeted some £9million towards improving the NHS staff working environment. The workplace environment is the focus of this study. It appears to want to answer the question: what would the midwives have wanted?

Most midwives do not have lockers. Changing rooms do not even exist in some units, and where they do, they also as storage areas. There was a feeling that Midwife-led units had ward layouts that made it easier to observe birth mothers and their babies; and encouraged interaction among staff members.

A positive comment by one respondent, relating to the sources of stress in the work place, was described by the authors as ‘rare’. The main problems included lighting, air quality and a lack of space. Concerning staff offices and work stations, the midwifery staff did not appear to feel comfortable with manning the security systems, the door bell or the buzzer.

Available space was cramped and cluttered. There were only a few, remotely sited or no facilities for midwifery staff respite.

My only problem with this study is: why was this paper not published in a journal that would most certainly be read by policy makers and hospital authorities in the UK? Initiatives for visible change would therefore be stimulated. This is not to say that the British Journal of Midwifery is not of high reputation and impact. But the main readership will be midwives and those interested in womens’ health. They know and experience these problems already. It would be interesting to see a repeat of this study, in 5 years time.