The Current Shortage of Midwives Globally and Training Solutions

How does the Midwifery shortage lead to complications in maternity units? How to overcome these problems? We discuss some solutions.

Midwives are trained health professionals to care for and support women during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Not only does a professional, experienced, and skilled Midwife help a woman stay healthy throughout the pregnancy, but they can also streamline the delivery to mitigate the risk of complications.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 800 women die during delivery or childbirth globally. UNICEF reports that a child is stillborn every 16 seconds, and more than 2.4 million infants die yearly. Professional Midwives with appropriate training and evidence-based education contribute to make a positive difference and prevent these shocking outcomes.

However, studies show that the global Midwives shortage is the most significant problem, causing hospitals, clinics, and birth centers to experience these complications. According to UNFPA, there is a shortage of 900,000 Midwives worldwide, particularly in third-world countries.

The Lancet reports that healthcare institutions, hospitals, and services must recognize the significance of Midwives' roles and invest in quality education, training programs, cutting-edge technology, and incentive systems by 2035 to save more than four million lives annually.

How to Address Shortage of Midwives Globally?

There are different strategies and methods to address the shortage of Midwives globally. However, education and training standards vary from country to country. A practical solution to overcome Midwifery challenges is to plan and manage the health workforce, allowing Midwives to work in a gender-free environment and more autonomously.

Likewise, there is a need to develop quality educational programs based on evidence to support Midwives and encourage them to provide adequate care to the mother and child. Enabling Midwives to lead their own improvements, such as creating Midwife-led care models, is an excellent way to overcome the shortage.

Health institutions, hospitals, clinics, childbirth centers, and departments worldwide must invest in Midwifery governance and leadership roles to reduce shortage and provide them with equal opportunities and incentives. Here are a few practical ways to overcome Midwifery problems, including shortages.

Evidence-Based Education

A 2019 study highlights that the primary concern of Midwives is to enhance the quality of Midwifery care. Researchers argue that developing and improving Midwifery students and graduates is essential to promoting their evidence-based knowledge and increasing their capabilities.

Another study states that educational institutions must regularly review Midwifery training programs. The purpose is to equip trainees with evidence-based information and knowledge to provide committed, independent, and effective services to patients. However, this is not an overnight job and requires thorough planning and preparation.

Moreover, institutions must develop specific standards, protocols, and criteria when selecting Midwifery faculty members. These faculty members must pass vocational courses before institutions hire them to teach students.

In-service training courses are also needed to ensure faculty members align their knowledge with the latest development in this particular healthcare domain. However, governments worldwide, particularly in low-income Asian and African countries, should financially support institutions to achieve these tasks/goals.

Incorporate Simulations in Midwifery Training

Simulation is a powerful and valuable method of teaching evidence-based and clinical skills to students, including doctors, physicians, nurses, and Midwives. Simulation ensures a safe environment and improves students' competence and confidence in Midwifery practice.

Although institutions can use different simulation methods and models, virtual reality (VR) simulations are more effective because it provides an immersive environment for students and teachers to repetitively perform Midwifery tasks, learn from mistakes, and stay engaged throughout the learning process. VR simulations also allow each student to have adequate time to use the simulation equipment as they are not restricted by the number of maniqins. VR simulation can also be used for distance learning should the need arise.

A 2020 research study published in Springer highlights that VR simulations provide immersive, sensory experiences that use the head mounted display which comes with earphones and hand held controllers.

Investing in quality equipment is essential to providing students with an engaging environment and achieving a multidimensional perception close to reality. Therefore, incorporating VR in Midwifery education and in-service training courses can lead to the following:

  • More engaging teaching and learning methods
  • A safe environment for practicing clinical skills
  • Fewer worries for students to making mistakes
  • Flexible teaching modes and methods

Another study highlights that VR simulation methods incorporated in Midwifery education can bridge the gap between theory and practice, allowing Midwifery students to improve cognitive, autonomous, and associative skills.

A study published in Bio Med Central shows that VR simulation can help health professionals improve decision-making, critical thinking, clinical, and management skills. Midwifery students who learn via VR simulation train together, allowing them to streamline their collaborative, communicative, and teamwork abilities.

Worldwide many Midwives have an intense workload. So, tiredness and even burtnout can be a factor in Midwives leaving the profession.

A reason for this is due to hospital administrations not allocating enough financial resources to hire enough Midwives. A 2022 study published in Science Direct highlights that hospitals use fewer Midwifery staff to perform more tasks, and that's why they face staff shortages.

One solution to this issue is creating new job titles for Midwives. For example, each medical profession has a supervisor, Midwives also require a supervisor to identify their problems, maintain their workload, calculate salaries, and communicate with the administration to benefit Midwives.

Implement a Fair Payment Plan

Many Midwives do not receive fair shares or salaries while performing more intense tasks. Payments to Midwives are lower, particularly in non-university hospitals.

So, health authorities, hospital administration, and owners should propose acceptable payment methods to motivate Midwives. Job descriptions with suitable salaries can attract more people for Midwifery roles.

However, this requires modifying the entire payment system with a fair plan consistent with efficiency and reliability in all institutions. High salaries, incentives, benefits, and rewards can make a difference.

Final Words

A Midwife is the backbone of the Obstertric department, which is crucial in providing optimal healthcare to women and babies. The shortage of Midwifery staff in hospitals and maternity units is a massive problem faced by countries worldwide.

Low-quality continuing education and poor working environments lead to low morale and burnout. We recommend following the strategies above to overcome the shortage crisis.

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