International study could help shape great midwife leaders around the globe

Dr Sally Pezaro pictured against a wood panelled background, wearing a black top and smiling at the camera.

Dr Sally Pezaro

University news / Research news

Friday 03 May 2024

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The biggest ever international study into midwifery leadership, which could help improve the way midwife leaders are identified and trained, has been led by Coventry University.

Spearheaded by Dr Sally Pezaro from Coventry University’s Research Centre for Healthcare and Communities, the study, which involved participants from 76 countries, was produced in conjunction with Nursing Now Challenge and Jhpiego, a global health non-profit and Johns Hopkins University affiliate with offices in more than 40 countries and Baltimore.

It identifies the ten leadership characteristics that make for strong midwifery leaders.

Midwives make an incredible impact on people’s lives every day but sadly it is widely acknowledged that investment in midwifery leadership worldwide has been low. Strong leadership in healthcare leads to increased staff satisfaction, and improved safety cultures, but conversely weak leadership in midwifery has been linked to a range of negative outcomes.

A lack of understanding of what strong leadership looks like in the context of midwifery has been a barrier, but we hope this study will help to address this issue. Having strong, effective midwife leaders is vital and by identifying the traits needed, it will support those in the profession to both choose and become the ideal individuals to take on such roles.

Dr Sally Pezaro

Dr Pezaro is a Fellow of the Royal College of Midwives (FRCM), a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and has experience working as a midwife clinically in the United Kingdom, Gambia and Ethiopia.

A total of 429 midwives and nurse-midwives took part in the study, which was supported by three recruitment webinars.

It found that being able to mediate, resilience, empathy, compassion, and a dedication to the profession were among the 10 traits needed in successful midwife leaders.

Others included being an evidence-based practitioner, an effective decision maker, a role model, a visionary and an advocate for both the profession and service users.

In addition to identifying these leadership traits, the study also found seven enablers, which could help create environments for midwife leaders to flourish.

These include having a clear professional identity, ongoing research in the profession, succession planning and increasing the societal value placed upon midwifery.

Find out more about studying midwifery at Coventry University.