'Great fleas have little fleas': Irish student midwives' views of the hierarchy in midwifery

Begley, C. M. (2002) 'Great fleas have little fleas': Irish student midwives' views of the hierarchy in midwifery. pp. 310-317. ISSN 03092402


`Great fleas have little fleas': Irish student midwives' views of the hierarchy in midwifery Background. Many studies have investigated the world of the student nurse, but there is little work into the lives and experiences of student midwives. Studies of Irish midwives' provision of care have demonstrated that they are not fulfilling their complete role, and research into their education was deemed to be necessary. Aim. To explore the opinions, feelings and views of student midwives as they progressed through their 2-year education programme in Ireland. Methods. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used and the qualitative sections of the study were guided by the phenomenological approach. Ethical approval was granted. All students in the first intake of 1995 in all seven midwifery schools in Southern Ireland agreed to take part (n =125). Individual and group interviews, diary-keeping and questionnaires collected data. Results. The findings presented in this paper describe the students' views of the hierarchical structures in midwifery, and the role and behaviours of the `Matron'. The data describes a subculture of nursing/midwifery subordination. Discussion. One reason for the hierarchical nature of the midwifery profession may be because it is an almost totally female-dominated profession, with the female hierarchy exercising control over other women within a male-based power structure. Many hospitals preferred to employ their own students as staff, ensuring a continuation of the hierarchical regime. Conclusion. The recurring nature of this problem may be because midwives now fear change more than they desire it. Further research is required to ascertain whether the reason for the strong hierarchy is because of the continuation of midwifery from the male-dominated profession of nursing, to the existence of the industrial/economic model of maternity care or to the impact of the medicalization of childbirth. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]; Copyright of Journal of Advanced Nursing is the property of Wiley-Blackwell and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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