Computers in midwifery practice: a view from the labour ward


Dr Edith M. Hillan Department of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland.


Concern continues to exist about the lack of integration of research into clinical practice. One of the reasons which has been suggested for this, is that practitioners may either not know about, or understand, the research findings. The availability of a database which contains systematic reviews of research such as the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Database, should go some way to overcome such obstacles associated with the implementation of research into practice. As part of a national audit on Caesarean section, a computer with the Cochrane Database was installed in the labour ward of each consultant maternity unit in Scotland. The purpose of this study was to determine if midwives working in labour wards make use of this accessible source of research findings to inform their practice. Anecdotal evidence suggested that although midwives were keen to use the databases, they did not have the requisite computer skills to do so. This study examined the computer literacy of midwives and their perceived educational needs. A questionnaire was distributed to all labour ward midwives in 22 consultant maternity hospitals in Scotland (n=850). This questionnaire considered issues such as the preparation of midwives to use computers, midwives’ perceptions and use of computers and their perceived educational needs. The response rate was 74%. Following analysis of the questionnaire labour ward managers were interviewed by telephone to ascertain their views regarding the Cochrane Database and their perception of its effectiveness. The results highlighted that only 27% of midwives claimed to use the Cochrane Database on a regular basis. Overall midwives had a positive attitude towards information technology but claimed they did not have the requisite computer skills to use these tools. Managers agreed that there was a need for further instruction and support for midwives. The findings of this study have important implications for the future professional preparation and continuing education of midwives.