Gill Walton: the research that inspired me

By Gill Walton, CEO on 03 September 2018 Midwives Magazine Research

The RCM's CEO explains the research that influenced her and why.

I completed my midwifery training in 1987 with hardly any mention of research! The first research that inspired me was Sleep et al (1984) that certainly influenced the reduction in episiotomy in the unit I worked in. This research also inspired me to start a degree. The focus during that course was on quantitative research and in particular randomised controlled trials – the only research we were told that evidence-based practice could be built on.

Then in 1991 I heard Ruth Davis present her ethnographic study of student midwives’ experience of their training (Davis and Aitkinson, 1991). Her presentation and explanation of ethnography was inspiring and led me to think much more widely about how qualitative methodologies could influence evidence-based practice, our understanding of the world in which we worked and what we could do to keep improving maternity care by asking ‘why?’.

However, it did much more than that, it also led me to explore for myself the hierarchies and cultures in maternity services and I realised there was much to do to understand and seek to change negative cultures. It also had an impact on my use of qualitative methodologies as I studied further.

Action research became my methodology of choice and finally inspiring my interest in quality improvement (QI) techniques. My last Ql project was the development and use of a shared decision-making tool for choice of place of birth. It is true to say that now as RCM CEO I am still promoting healthy cultures, mutual respect and support for everyone in the maternity team and QI still grabs my attention as a methodology to create empowered change.

More reading:

Sleep J, Grant A, Garcia J, Elbourne D, Spencer J, Chalmers I. (1984) West Berkshire perineal management trial. British Medical Journal (clinical research edition) 289 (6445) 587-90

Davis RM, Atkinson P. (1991) Students of midwifery: 'doing the obs' and other coping strategies. Midwifery 7 (3): 113-21