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Applying a Midwifery-Specific Decision-Making Tool to Midwives' Clinical Reasoning and Midwifery Practice When Managing a Woman's Perineum in Labor: An Exploratory Study

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INTRODUCTION: Many of the risk factors for perineal trauma are modifiable, and midwives are in an ideal position to mitigate such risks. To date, no investigation using a midwifery-specific decision-making tool has sought to determine how midwives make decisions within a midwifery philosophy/context or identify the factors that may contribute to that decision making about perineal management. We sought to apply such a tool to midwives' narratives and explore their clinical reasoning and midwifery practice when managing a woman's perineum in labor. METHODS: A qualitative interview-based study with practicing midwives in one regional Australian maternity unit was conducted. The decision-making matrix specified by a psychometrically robust and validated measure of clinical decision making and midwifery practice-guided analysis. RESULTS: Effective clinical decision making in response to perineal trauma is contingent on a heuristic and individualized "working hypothesis" that combines distinct elements of an optimal clinical decision-making process. Midwives' narratives highlighted their ability to engage in some form of clinical reasoning. Some elements of midwifery practice was lacking within several midwives' narratives, thus resulting in them abdicating their professional role. CONCLUSION: The manner and processes by which midwives engage effectively with perineal management are complex. However, a significant influence on this process appears to be recollections from original training in perineal management, which appears to be largely rote and taught by example. We recommend balance between practical experience and synthesis with current evidence within a midwifery philosophy to optimize perineal care and risk modification.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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