Midwifery standards put mother at centre of decisions

Midwifery practice standards that put the mother at the centre of decision making have been published by the nursing regulator.

Midwifery standards put mother at centre of decisions

The standards were developed in the wake of last year’s report on baby deaths at Portlaoise Hospital by the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan.

When the report was published, then minister for health, James Reilly, asked the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) to find ways of improving competency and developing midwifery skills

The NMBI said the new standards, based on best-evidence and service needs, would support the profession and protect the public.

The Practice Standards for Midwives 2015, launched yesterday, the International Day of the Midwife, replace the 2010 standards and are effective from May 31.

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The first practice standard states the country’s 2,500 midwives should respect the “diversity of beliefs, values, choices and priorities” of the woman and her family.

It states midwives should respect the woman’s right to choose whether or not to follow advice and recommendations about her care.

“You must respect the woman as the primary decision-maker in all matters regarding her own health-care and that of her baby unless a court of law orders otherwise.”

Also, a midwife should ensure “no act or omission places the woman, her baby, her family, your colleagues or yourself” at any unnecessary risk.

Midwives with a “conscientious objection” based on religious or moral beliefs to participating in the care of a woman or her baby must inform the woman, their line manager and employer as soon as possible.

“Where there is a risk to the life of the woman or baby, you must continue to provide care to the woman and her baby until you are relieved of your duties, regardless of your conscientious objection,” the document states

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Chief nursing officer at the Department of Health, Dr Siobhán O’Halloran, said the standards were an extremely positive development for the midwifery profession “The new standards will support excellence in midwifery and the development of the highest standards of practice.”

NMBI chief executive, Dr Mara Pidgeon, said the new standards clearly outlined the scope of midwifery practice and core midwifery skills needed to ensure safe and high-quality care for mothers and their babies.

“They also make registered midwives aware of the legislation and guidelines defining their role and describing their scope of practice.”

The standards have been specifically aligned with the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Nurses and Registered Midwives, launched late last year by NMBI.

However, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said midwifery standards and best practice were being “increasingly pressurised” because of the country’s continuing high birth rate and a shortage of midwives.

Union president Claire Mahon said research and clinical practice had confirmed the midwifery-led services were efficient, effective and preferred by women who had an normal pregnancy. “The policy goal in this country should, therefore, be to extend and expand these high quality midwifery-led services and the INMO will be seeking this as part of ongoing service reconfiguration,” she said.

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