Midwifery/Communities of practice

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NB (this is work in progress and is not being initiated at present. These are simply some ideas that we are working on that may or may not be adopted into the bachelor of midwifery program)
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Communities of practice

Studies consistently find health professionals access information and research evidence through communities of practice. Communities of practice may be used for problem solving, sharing information, sharing resources or discussing developments as well as establishing where there is existing knowledge or gaps in knowledge and highlighting areas requiring further investigation (Gabbay & Le May, 2004; Tolson McAloon, Hotchkiss & Schofield, 2005; Wenger, 2006). Communities of practice provide an opportunity to share narratives of practice while generating new ideas through reflection within a group. The purpose is to bring people with a common knowledge base together to explore ideas, share experiences and provide opportunities to highlight aspects of practice which would benefit from further research, thereby contributing new evidence to the group (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002).

Midwifery communities of practice

Midwives also share and learn through practice groups or communities of practice (Fahey & Monaghan, 2005; McIntosh, 2007). Learning and reflecting in a group helps to identify local implications and possibilities for local implementation, while being able to identify and strategise problems which could arise. The internet, and new social networking technologies, offer increasing possibilities for midwives to come together in communities of practice, even if they are geographically isolated. Midwives are aware that, when they come across an unusual circumstance, others may benefit from their research and learning (McIntosh, 2007). Utilising online networking tools could provide opportunities and mechanisms for this sharing to happen. Midwives, who are participating in postgraduate distance education, can establish supportive networks with others, who are studying the same topics, and share learning resources and ideas.

Undergraduate midwives communities of practice

Undergraduate midwives need to develop skills in using social networking tools from an early stage in their midwifery studies. The opportunity to reflect and learn in a group through online networking tools will provide supportive learning opportunities which will continue to benefit students as they move through the three years of the Bachelor of Midwifery degree course. Learning skills in using these technologies will continue to benefit them as they move into midwifery practice. It is important that students are supported to be able to use social networking tools in a safe way, preserving the confidentiality of women and families they work with. Students need to be aware the social networking is a useful tool to discuss their learning and seek support from fellow students and others but they cannot post anything about the contact they have with women and their families on a social networking site. Sharing any of this information is a breech of confidence and is not appropriate for midwives or midwifery students.


Boud, D., & Middleton, H. (2003). Learning from others at work: communities of practice and informal learning. Journal of workplace learning, 15(5), 194-202.
Gabbay, J., & Le-May, A. (2004). Evidence based guidelines or collectively constructed "mindlines"? Ethnographic study of knowledge management in primary care. British medical journal, 329, 1013-1017.
Fahey, C. M., & Monaghan, J. S. (2005). Australian rural midwives: perspectives on continuing professional development [Electronic Version]. Rural and remote health, 5. Retrieved 25th June 2006 from http://rrh.deakin.edu.au.
McIntosh, C. (2007). Wise womens' web: Rural midwives communities of practice. A qualitative descriptive study. Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master in Midwifery at Otago Polytechnic,Dunedin, New Zealand.
Tolson, D., McAloon, M., Hotchkiss, R., & Schofield, I. (2005). Progressing evidence-based practice: an effective nursing model? Journal of advanced nursing, 50(2), 124-133.
Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice, a brief introduction. Retrieved 29th December 2006, from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm

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