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Ulster Research Reveals High Level of Bullying in Midwifery

21 July 2009 Ulster, University of

Midwifery culture must change to eradicate bullying at all levels of the profession – according to University of Ulster nursing experts  who have just completed a five-year study of the issue.

More than half of the 164 student midwives across the UK questioned for the survey said that they had been badly treated in their place of work.

Students said they were most often bullied by another midwife, usually their mentor or ward sister, although university lecturers and personal tutors were also identified as bullies.

Bullied students reported a lack of confidence and self-esteem, and increased anxiety, as a result.

The authors of the report entitled, ‘Student Midwives’ Experience of Bullying’ are Dr Patricia Gillen, Professor Marlene Sinclair and Professor George Kernohan from the University’s School of Nursing at Jordanstown.

They have recommended that midwifery acknowledge that bullying in the profession was unacceptable and increase awareness of what constitutes bullying.

“Over half the students had either experienced bullying or had witnessed their midwifery colleagues being bullied. The bullying behaviours that they were exposed to included intimidation, excessive criticism, belittling of their work, undervaluing of their skills, questioning of their competency and undervaluing of their effort,’ said Dr Gillen.

The report called for all qualified midwives to examine their own behaviour, particularly when dealing with student midwives. It also recommended that the nature of bullying, and how it happened in practice, should be added to curricula for midwife education.

In addition, student midwives should be taught how to deal with bullying, and how to offer support to colleagues, said the researchers.

“Key stakeholders such as the RCM, RCN, NHS Employers and the NMC, and midwives, need to face up to the fear that surrounds this phenomenon and take a proactive approach, which clearly labels bullying as a behaviour that is not acceptable within 21st-century midwifery,’ added Professor Marlene Sinclair.

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