Can resilience be taught in midwifery education?

By Dr Jacqui Williams on 06 August 2020 Maternity Services

When I commenced my doctorate of education, I wanted to challenge the
current resilience discourse which appeared to do more to threaten than promote it in midwives. Student midwives have to complete a demanding programme, including dealing with difficult situations in practice and I questioned whether they need resilience to be successful in their programme and become midwives. There is a paucity of literature specifically studying resilience in student midwives, published definitions of resilience do not align with midwifery and this supported my view that midwifery students require their own definition.

The students who participated in my study clearly articulated a definition of resilience and its relevance to student midwives. However, the view that taught sessions on resilience will satisfactorily prepare students for what they will face in their daily lives as healthcare practitioners whilst appealing, is a somewhat naïve approach. They were clear that resilience cannot be taught but it can be promoted and developed by the individual.

My research enabled me to develop a unique, multifaceted model of resilience for student midwives comprising four essential components: reactability, reflection and reflexivity, relationships with significant others and passion for midwifery. All components are interdependent, integral and essential to resilience for student midwives; without one being more important than the other and they are not hierarchical in nature as the model below demonstrates:

Resilience does not mean that an individual is not affected by the difficult situations which arise in midwifery practice but they know how to respond and gain closure. Therefore, when a student asks for support and guidance it should not be seen as a sign of weakness but a strength and part of their resilience; their relationships with significant others play a key role here.

The study concluded that resilience is a multi-faceted concept, an ‘umbrella’ term, that relies on a number of essential key attributes that can support a student midwife with the challenges that they encounter in midwifery practice. The students identified that resilience is not a static concept, there are different levels of resilience which can fluctuate between contexts. The model of resilience for student midwives is a framework for student midwives and their significant others to consider strategies to foster resilience for the midwifery programme and beyond.

For more information, the full thesis can be viewed here.