Free standing birth centres: Planning an ethnography of an alternative workplace for midwives

During the past century, childbirth in most of the industrialized world moved into an institutional hospital setting. In Ontario, midwives offer women the choice of home or hospital birth. However, despite this option, the vast majority of babies in the province continue to be born in hospital. At the same time, the Canadian Association of Midwives notes that it remains challenging for midwives in Ontario to access privileges at hospitals and that they face barriers in being able to practise within the full scope of their profession.

Recently, a provincial pilot project aided in the development of three free-standing birth centres (FSBCs) to provide low-risk pregnant women and their families with a greater range of birthing options. In February 2014, the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre (OBWC) opened its doors to its first birthing woman and her family. Birth centres represent a new and unique workplace for Ontario midwives and introduce unchartered opportunities for interprofessional collaboration in a midwife led environment alongside emerging healthcare support roles, such as birth centre aides.

In partnership with the OBWC, academic researchers Bourgeault and Benoit plan to map an ethnographic study that addresses the following research questions:

  • How does the social care context of the birth centre impact midwives' work lives and their professional identity?
  • How does the OBWC facilitate or hinder interprofessional collaboration (among midwives, midwives and obstetricians/physicians, midwives and birth centre aides)?

Funding body: CIHR Planning and Dissemination Grant – Institute Community Support program