Comparing caseload and non-caseload midwives’ burnout levels and professional attitudes: A national, cross-sectional survey of Australian midwives working in the public maternity system
BACKGROUND:Caseload midwifery has many benefits for women and their babies, however only around 8% of women receive caseload care in the public maternity system in Australia. Midwives working within caseload models are required to provide activity-based care (working on-call, responsively to the needs of their caseload of women) rather than undertaking shift work. There has been debate regarding the impact of caseload work on midwives, but recently caseload work has been associated with higher professional satisfaction and lower burnout when compared to midwives working in traditional models. However, there continues to be debate about the impact of caseload on midwives, so further investigation is needed. DESIGN AND SETTING:A national cross-sectional survey of midwives working in Australian public hospitals that have birthing services was undertaken. We explored burnout and midwives' attitudes to their professional role using the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory and the Midwifery Process Questionnaire, respectively. Comparisons were made across three groups of midwives: those who worked in the caseload model, midwives who did not work in this model but worked in a hospital with a caseload model, and midwives who worked in a hospital without a caseload model. PARTICIPANTS AND FINDINGS:We received 542 responses from midwives from 111 hospitals from all Australian states and one of the territories. Of respondents, 107 midwives worked in a caseload model, 212 worked in a hospital with a caseload model but did not work in caseload, and 220 midwives worked in a hospital without a caseload model. Midwives working in caseload had significantly lower burnout scores in the personal and work-related burnout subscales, and a trend toward lower scores in the client-related burnout subscale. They also had higher scores across all four subscales of the midwifery process questionnaire, demonstrating more positive attitudes to their professional role. KEY CONCLUSIONS:Although concerns have been raised regarding the impact of caseload midwifery on midwives, this national study found that midwives working within caseload had a more positive attitude to their work and lower burnout scores than those not working in the model, compared with both midwives working in a hospital with a caseload model and midwives working in a hospital without caseload. This large national study does not support earlier suggestions that caseload midwifery causes increased burnout. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:Given the benefits of caseload for women and their infants, and the benefits for midwives found in this study, policy-makers and health care providers should focus on how the caseload model can be expanded to provide increased access for both women and midwives.