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The experiences of midwives during COVID-19 in British Columbia, Canada

This brief outlines the findings of a qualitative research study exploring the experiences of midwives working on the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia (BC), Canada. Researchers conducted focus group discussions and semistructured interviews with 13 women midwives that worked in the BC healthcare system during the pandemic. Participants were recruited through emails sent to all midwifery practices listed in the Midwife Association of BC directory and through advertisements on social media. Focus groups and interviews were facilitated using Zoom between December 2020 and February 2021. Informed consent was received from all
participants and ethics approval was granted by Simon Fraser University. Through a framework approach, analysis provided insight into the risks, challenges and inequities facing midwives as they provide essential care to families within the BC community. Concerns around the long-term impact of the pandemic on the sustainability of the midwifery profession point to the need for policy changes to support these essential workers so that they can continue to provide high-quality woman-centred services and birth options for pregnant people in BC.

Policy recommendations to support midwives

  • Prioritize the resumption of negotiations around the 2019 Midwife Master Agreement.
  • Designate and recognize midwives as essential healthcare workers who should receive the same support as other frontline healthcare professionals, such as pandemic pay, funds to adapt health clinics, and sickness benefits.
  • Provide midwives with government-funded, high-quality PPE to mitigate their risk of contracting COVID-19. PPE should be available for use in all services offered by midwives and provided in an accessible way that considers the unpredictable nature of their work.
  • Remove barriers that limit midwives’ ability to claim COVID-19 as an occupational risk and access coverage for sick pay and disability benefits given their high risk of contracting COVID-19 and the resulting financial implications.
  • Provide proactive support for mental ill-health and burnout, such as opportunities for education around burnout prevention and access to counseling.
  • Implement strategies that support midwifery students and educational efforts, including providing larger incentives for preceptors to mentor students.
  • Acknowledge the essential work midwives are doing and the risks they are taking to provide high-quality care in messaging and media statements.
  • Create opportunities for increased midwifery representation in leadership and decision-making to enable them to advocate for policies that meet their needs and the needs of their clients.

Memmott et al. (2021). Unsupported and Undervalued: The experiences of midwives during COVID-19 in British Columbia, Canada. Gender and COVID-19 Project.

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