30 Years Since Midwives Gained The Right To Practice Autonomously* | 22...

30 Years Since Midwives Gained The Right To Practice Autonomously* | 22 August Marks Anniversary

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“We felt we had little control over own
bodies.”

That’s how one Auckland woman describes
her experience of childbirth in the 1970s. That all changed
30 years ago with the passage of the Nurses Amendment Act
1990, providing statutory recognition for midwives as
“safe and competent practitioners in their own
right”.

Catherine has two kōtiro (daughters) who
have had tamariki of their own, and the kuia says the
difference between her experience and that of her kōtiro,
are poles apart.

“The lead up to having our
children, the preparation for labour, was something done to
us,” she says. “From the shaving, to the talking around
us as though we weren’t there, it was a pretty challenging
experience. Having been so involved with our daughters’
pregnancies and labour in the last few years, I can see how
much more positive and empowering being pregnant and having
a baby is now.”

Kerry and Christine are
Catherine’s daughters and South Auckland midwife Ady
Priday has been the midwife for both sisters. Kerry’s son,
Tyree, is almost 13months old now. Kerry says Ady is part of
the whānau and she can’t imagine the maternity experience
without a midwife providing the tailored care for mum and
baby.

Midwife
Ady Priday and mum Kerry

As Māori,
we describe the trust and relationship we have with our
midwife, as whakawhanaungatanga,
which is an important part of our whakapapa,” says Kerry.
“I believe particularly for Māori and Pasifika, the kind
of maternity model we have in Aotearoa** is key to achieving
the best outcomes possible for both mum and
baby.”

New Zealand College of
Midwives
Chief Executive, Alison Eddy, says the
anniversary is the ideal time to highlight some of the many
significant positive changes women have seen as a
result.

“Our midwifery-led maternity model is held
up by many, including the World Health Organisation, as
being the very best for women and babies,” she says. “As
women and midwives, we have much to be proud
of.”

The formation of the Midwifery Employee
Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) has been a
significant achievement over the last 30 years. MERAS
Co-leader (midwifery), Caroline Conroy says changes to the
Act influenced the way employed midwives worked and have
enabled more midwifery-led services within DHBs and the
primary maternity units to flourish.

“MERAS is very
proud of the work our team continues to do, ensuring
midwives get the appropriate support and recognition for the
expert and outstanding work they do every day,” she says.
“Midwives are highly trained health professionals with a
very specialised scope of practice and we consistently
remind people of this as part of our ongoing
work.”

To celebrate the event, the College is in the
process of arranging a webinar that will include key, high
profile local and international experts in the field of
midwifery, women’s health and
maternity.

*Nurses Amendment Act
1990

**See latest research regarding
the effectiveness of the NZ model of maternity care
here

Saturday,
22 August, marks the 30th anniversary of the Nurses
Amendment Act 1990 which reintroduced autonomous midwifery
practice in New Zealand. The Act separated midwifery from
nursing, reiterating that midwifery is a separate and
distinct profession, with specific expertise and training.
The Act provided statutory recognition for midwives as
“safe and competent practitioners in their own
right.”

In addition, midwives won the statutory
right to prescribe medications, order and interpret
diagnostic tests, and study midwifery without prior nursing
qualifications. Therefore educational institutions were able
to offer direct-entry midwifery education which they have
now been doing very successfully for almost three
decades.

Cutting
the ties:

30 years of autonomous
midwifery

Caroline Conroy (MERAS Co-leader –
Midwifery)

Saturday, 22 August marks the 30th
anniversary of the Nurses Amendment Act 1990, providing
statutory recognition for midwives as “safe and competent
practitioners in their own right.” In addition, midwives
won the statutory right to prescribe medications, order and
interpret diagnostic tests, and study midwifery without
prior nursing qualifications.

Nevertheless, for the
next 30 years DHB-employed midwives continued to be paid on
the same pay scales as nurses. That changed on 1 August 2020
when all MERAS members received a pay increase taking the
top of the core midwives’ scale to $78,353 a year, and
midwifery graduates who are MERAS members will start on step
2 of the pay scale on $59,222 a year from now.

To
symbolise this break from the nurse-led pay scales, MERAS
has given every member a pair of scissors.

However,
there is more work to do. Although midwives practice
autonomously, in much the same way as doctors, we are
arguing through the Midwifery Pay Equity process that
midwives are undervalued partly because the midwifery model
of practice is based on ‘inherent or natural abilities’
of women that are not accounted for in midwives’
pay.

We are also pointing to the method of wage fixing
by the DHBs that has tied midwives’ pay to that of nurses,
another women-dominated profession that suffers from
gender-based
undervaluation.

© Scoop Media

 



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