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Differences in learning objectives during the labour ward clinical attachment between medical students and their midwifery preceptors


Dr Julie A Quinlivan, Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Royal Women's Hospital, 132 Grattan Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia. Tel.: 00 61 3 9344 2130; Fax: 00 61 3 9347 1761; E-mail:


Objectives  Midwives have been actively involved in the clinical teaching of medical students for many years. However, this role has received little attention and limited research has been conducted into either its efficacy or the development of strategies to maximise the potential of such teaching opportunities. We examined medical student and midwifery preceptor attitudes towards students' learning objectives during the labour ward placement.

Methods  A descriptive cross-sectional survey of midwifery preceptors and medical students was undertaken. The setting was an Australian teaching and tertiary referral hospital. The questionnaire contained questions about strategies to improve medical student involvement on the labour ward and opinions towards core competencies of the student curriculum.

Results  Of 94 questionnaires issued to midwifery preceptors, 63 were returned (response rate 67%). Of 130 questionnaires issued to medical students, 93 were returned (response rate 72%). Major differences in the expectations of students and midwifery preceptors were identified. Only 17% of midwives felt medical students should be involved in helping mothers with breastfeeding, and some no longer saw a role for students in delivering babies or performing well baby checks. These differences in opinions led to student dissatisfaction with their obstetric learning experience.

Conclusion  Educators need to ensure that students and midwifery preceptors identify common learning objectives. Failure to address these differences may lead to poor interdisciplinary relationships.