Introduction: To date, there has been little documentation of how practice-based midwifery networks in the United States might influence the transfer and development of knowledge in childbearing and women's health care. The first phase of this participatory action research project was to conduct a qualitative study with a community of midwifery practices to understand their perspectives on evidence-based practice and how an organized network could facilitate their work.
Methods: Midwives within the community of interest were invited by letter or e-mail to participate in individual or small group interviews about knowledge transfer, primary concerns of evidence-based practice, and potential for a midwifery practice-based research network. Participatory action research strategies and organizational ethnographic approaches to data collection were used to guide qualitative interviews.
Results: Eight midwifery practices enrolled in the study with 23 midwives participating in interviews. They attended births at 2 hospitals in the community. Two broad areas of discourse about evidence-based practice were identified: 1) challenges from influential persons, finances and resources, and the cultural perception of midwifery, and 2) strategies to foster best practice in the face of those challenges. The midwives believed a research network could be useful in learning collectively about their practices and in the support of their work.
Discussion: Evidence-based practice is a goal but also has many challenges in everyday implementation. Practice-based research networks hold promise to support clinicians to examine the evidence and form strong coalitions to foster best clinical practice. The second phase of this study will work with this community of midwives to explore collective strategies to examine and improve practice.