The primacy of the good midwife in midwifery services: an evolving theory of professionalism in midwifery


Sigridur Halldorsdottir, PhD (Med. Dr.), MSN, BSc, RN, Professor and Chairman of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, School of Health Sciences, University of Akureyri, Solborg v. Nordurslod, PO Box 224, 602 Akureyri, Iceland.


Scand J Caring Sci; 2011; 25; 806–817
The primacy of the good midwife in midwifery services: an evolving theory of professionalism in midwifery

Theory is the acknowledged foundation to practise methodology, professional identity and growth of formalized knowledge. It has been noted that practice must not only be evidence-based but also theory-based. Hence, midwifery must be theory based because theories serve as a broad framework for practice and may also articulate the goals of a profession and core values. In this paper, an evolving theory on the empowerment of childbearing women is introduced, where the midwife’s professionalism is central. The theory is synthesized from nine datasets and scholarly work, and then more than three hundred studies were reviewed for clarification and confirmation. According to the theory, the midwife’s professionalism is constructed from five main aspects: The professional midwife cares for the childbearing woman and her family. This caring within the professional domain is seen as the core of midwifery. The professional midwife is professionally competent. This professional competence must always have primacy for the sake of safety of woman and child. The professional midwife has professional wisdom and knows how to apply it. Professional wisdom is a new concept used to denote the interplay of knowledge and experience. The professional midwife has interpersonal competence, is capable of empowering communication and positive partnership with the woman and her family. The professional midwife develops herself both personally and professionally, which is the prerequisite for true professionalism. This evolving theory must be regularly reconstructed in the light of current knowledge within midwifery. It is an attempt to identify and articulate the processes and components of the art and science of midwifery practice in an endeavour of continuing the discipline’s development by assisting in the understanding and practice of creating further theoretical discourse, processes and products for midwifery practice. The theory has implications for midwifery education and practice.