Midwifery students' experiences of an innovative clinical placement model embedded within midwifery continuity of care in Australia
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Background: midwifery continuity of care experiences can provide high quality clinical learning for students but can be challenging to implement. The Rural and Private Midwifery Education Project (RPMEP) is a strategic government funded initiative to (1) grow the midwifery workforce within private midwifery practice and rural midwifery, by (2) better preparing new graduates to work in private midwifery and rural continuity of care models. Aim: this study evaluated midwifery students' experience of an innovative continuity of care clinical placement model in partnership with private midwifery practice and rural midwifery group practices. Method: a descriptive cohort design was used. All students in the RPMEP were invited to complete an online survey about their experiences of clinical placement within midwifery continuity models of care. Responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. Correlations between total scale scores were examined. Open-ended responses were analysed using content analysis. Internal reliability of the scales was assessed using Cronbach's alpha. Findings: sixteen out of 17 completed surveys were received (94% response rate). Scales included in the survey demonstrated good internal reliability. The majority of students felt inspired by caseload approaches to care, expressed overall satisfaction with the mentoring received and reported a positive learning environment at their placement site. Some students reported stress related to course expectations and demands in the clinical environment (e.g. skill acquisition and hours required for continuity of care). There were significant correlations between scales on perceptions of caseload care and learning culture (r¼.87 po.001) and assessment (r¼.87 po.001). Scores on the clinical learning environment scale were significantly correlated with perceptions of the caseload model (rho¼.86 po.001), learning culture (rho¼.94 po.001) and assessment (rho¼.65 po.01) scales. Conclusions: embedding students within midwifery continuity of care models was perceived to be highly beneficial to learning, developed partnerships with women, and provided appropriate clinical skills development required for registration, while promoting students' confidence and competence. The flexible academic programme enabled students to access learning at any time and prioritise continuity of care experiences. Strategies are needed to better support students achieve a satisfactory work-life balance.
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