Monday, January 23, 2012

The art of listening and compromising with women

As a midwife the art of listening is imperative, not only listening but hearing what the woman is saying and wanting. This in its self comes with its own inherent problems because as a midwife you know what a woman wants, however this can be like walking a tightrope as a midwife is bound by rules and regulations, therefore it is about the language you use and the compromising you can implement to satisfy both the woman and the institution.

Language is commanding, it is all in the way it is presented; an example would be; you are having trouble monitoring(cardiotocograph (CTG) a woman and she is having a syntocinon (a synthetic form of a hormone oxytocin) infusion for an induction of labour (IOL). It is important to monitor the baby’s heart rate through this procedure as sometimes babies have a negative reaction to the drug and it needs to be stopped. The policy states that a woman having a syntocinon infusion needs to be on a CTG –however in this instance you cannot effectively monitor the woman. What is the midwife to do? The midwife reports to the doctor, the instructions are “the woman must be monitored, put a fetal scalp electrode on”. The procedure is explained to the woman, a small, tiny hook is put on the scalp of the baby, so we can monitor the baby – the woman flatly refuses this option, a definite “NO”. Next: the woman is told, “If you don’t have the scalp electrode and we cannot monitor you, our policy states we must do this. Therefore we will stop the drug and you can walk around for an hour, and if you don’t have contractions, we will start the drug again and you HAVE to have the scalp electrode attached”.

There is something profoundly wrong with this statement: the language is authoritarian, demanding, controlling, there is no compromising, no listening, no discussion, and it creates fear and rebellion and backs the woman into a corner. There has to be a better way of walking the tight rope without losing our balance and falling off. It may be sometimes possible to hold the monitor in place enabling a good CTG reading, thereby giving a good outcome, however I acknowledge that this can be difficult.

What do you do if a woman is refusing best practice, policy, or guidelines?

The answer, discuss the issues in a non-threatening way; give the reasons / evidence why it is important to do whatever it is you want; get the doctor to discuss the issues with the woman; clearly document all discussions and the reasons why the woman is refusing the treatment, however ensure that the woman understands the implications for her decision. It is also a good idea to read back your notes to the woman so that she clearly understands the implications of the discussions and it is how she sees the situation.

At the end of the day the decision will lie with the woman, if she is of sound mind, she is able to consent to treatment or equally refuse treatment. Part of our job is to give her balanced information to enable women to make an informed choice.

A policy is usually best practice and is to be followed. A guideline is as it suggests a guideline that usually outlines how the policy works; both are usually well referenced and evidenced based. In a legal proceeding the policy and guidelines of the time are called to guide the current practice at the time and the expected care to be provided.

Midwives are not and should not be expected to be doctor’s messengers; if doctors have these sorts of explicit instructions, they should be discussing this directly with the client/woman and not expecting midwives to pass on these instructions. The ANMC Competency standards, code of ethics and code of conduct all state that collaboration is essential with health professionals, this means discussing and sharing finding the middle ground, not just regurgitate doctors sentiments, doctors need to be building this relationship with the woman to also find a way to compromise. Midwives need to be mindful of the issue of “failing to obey a doctor’s order” this is a whole separate blog which I will be doing very soon. Working within a system you could face disciplinary action or be sacked for “Gross misconduct”…. Watch this space.

It must be remembered that the woman is the consumer, with her own freely chosen subjective preferences and desires. Doctors tend to practice paternalism – thinking that they know best. Paternalism in medicine is defined as acting for the welfare of the woman, often interfering with or disregarding the woman’s autonomy. Doctors need to find the middle ground.

Autonomy means ‘self-rule’, to act autonomously a woman needs liberty and independence from controlling influences, it is the right to hold your own views. As a midwife we walk a tightrope, balancing the woman’s needs, the requirements of the regulatory bodies and doctors recommendations…….the bottom line remains if a woman is of sound mind, well informed of her choices, she can refuse any treatment, however she needs to clearly articulate these choices together with the possible implications of her choice.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The challenge of collaboration:

I have written about collaboration in the past and it still seems elusive, however a few of my esteemed colleagues have managed to gain some sort of formal collaboration. The word ‘collaborate’ means ‘to work with another, cooperate’. However so far, the collaboration has been limited to antenatal and postnatal care, and intrapartum care being only provided by the doctor. When it comes to continuity of midwifery care, through all phases of pregnancy the problem arises when the woman goes into labour - the birth is still in the realm of the doctor. The woman goes to hospital and is cared for by the doctor, they still hold onto this part. However I have noted that times and attitudes are changing and maybe given a little more time the doctors will not be so territorial regarding ‘normal low risk’ births.

I would dearly love to see women with the opportunity to have a midwife in their home for the early part of labour, to support, encourage, nurture and be with woman. Keeping the woman in their own environment with a midwife until they are ready to go to hospital in established labour, this could prevent the cascade of intervention and we would have more normal births.

I do wonder whether the threat of things going wrong and not in the doctors control; in other words the threat of litigation is the motivator, together with no real benefit for the doctor to collaborate with the midwife. What is the incentive for the doctor to collaborate? Maybe if we a sign a Medicare no to "collaboration" doctors might do so... Most doctors I have written too are happy to continue as they have for the past years; however the issue is, that women are requesting midwives and continuity of midwifery care, it is time for change.

NHMRC was commissioned by the Dept of Health to develop national guidance on collaborative maternity care as part of the national maternity reforms they produced a whole document about the process of “Collaborative Maternity Care”. This was to encapsulate maternity care collaboration placing the woman at the centre of her own care, whilst supporting the health professionals who care for her. Thus ensuring her cultural, psychological and clinical needs were met. The NHMRC produced a pamphlet for women to help explain collaboration; I have yet to see this document widely distributed.

The pamphlet explains to women that

“Midwives provide care to women during pregnancy – from conception until early parenting in collaboration with other health care providers. Midwives can provide most aspects of ‘low risk’ pregnancy, labour and birth, and postnatal care to women. They may need to refer you to, or talk with, a doctor or other services if you or your baby have or develop problems”

Obstetricians & GP “Provide specialised care for mothers and babies in collaboration with other health care providers. They can look after women with “routine” and “complicated” pregnancies and births, and provide labour and birth care in hospitals.

Pregnancy is a very special time for women and families, it is very important to ensure you are getting quality safe care including informed choice from your service provider, whether it is an obstetrician, midwife or GP Obstetrician. That your choices are being heard and respected, you also have the right to say ‘no’ to treatments you do not want, don’t ever be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Collaboration is about working in partnerships with each other in order to facilitate the wishes of the woman and her family. Recently I experienced true collaboration with a hospital in facilitating a woman’s birth, what we need is the Determination of July 2010 overturned or amended for midwives to collaborate with a Health Service, rather than an individual doctor.

Here’s to ‘continuity of midwifery care’, every woman having the opportunity to have a midwife and doctors and midwives working in partnership.

What you need to do if you want to be a Private Practice Midwife in WA

Western Australia is unique in many ways, but particularly in the area of Midwifery, it is the only State in Australia where you have to declare your intention to practice midwifery as a private practitioner to the Health Dept. In principle I think it is important for the regulatory body to know who is practicing independently, however I think rules pertaining to this should be National, not state by state. However despite my personal views it remains that for WA you need to register your intention to practice privately (independently).Therefore it is important to take several steps:

1. Ensure you are eligible to practice midwifery
2. Be a registered midwife (NMBA - AHPRA)
3. Review recency of practice standards
4. There are no rules as to how long after registration that you can practice privately(exemption until July 2013)
5. Review Health Act Regulations 1914 Midwives Notification
6. Lodge the form to the Health Dept (your intention to practice) Notification
7. Secure Insurance (VERO or MIGA) all private practice midwives (independent) must have insurance
8. Review guidelines for insurance (NMBA - AHPRA)

Medicare for Midwives: for this you need to be an Eligible midwife (private/independent)

An eligible midwife has completed three years midwifery covering antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care.

1. Complete Midwifery Practice Review (or equivalent) (ACM)

2. Review the application form for addition of notation as an eligible midwife
3. Currently registered as a midwife, with no restrictions

4. Current competence to provide pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal care to women and their infants.

5. Midwifery experience that is equivalent to three years full time post initial registration as a midwife.

6. Formal undertaking to complete within 18mths - course for prescribing (course has to be approved by the Board)
7. 20 additional hours per year of continuing professional development relating to the continuum of midwifery care.

That's it, not much to do.....but please remember to register with the Health Dept your intention to practice privately. Also remember there is currently no insurance for Homebirth.
We need more eligible midwives, so please consider taking up the challenge, and offering women continuity of midwifery practice.

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