Hi Kath! Can you please tell us a little bit about your research?

Kath is interested in determining what factors influence rural maternity service sustainability to develop models of care that will allow women to birth closer to home

Hello, my research is examining the perspective of rural Victorian health service executive and board members on the sustainability of maternity services. This PhD project is a mixed methods study with concurrent quantitative survey and qualitative interview phases. Participant recruitment and data collection commenced late 2021, and we are now completing analysis. Some key findings are associated with the critical state of maternity workforce in rural Victoria, particularly that of midwives, which impacts maternity service sustainability. Additionally key themes have been identified associated with the need for regional to rural maternity service supports and aligned funding to facilitate rural maternity initiatives. One such initiative that is cost effective, uses a midwifery workforce flexibly and has positive outcomes for women and babies, is Midwifery Group Practice. This model of care provides continuity for women and families, can be operationalised in all areas, yet is limited in rural Victoria. Funding is required to support, sustain, and maintain such initiative to improve access for rural women and families, and to provide safe maternity care.

What inspired you to undertake a PhD?

I started my undergraduate degree in the 90’s and as part of that course I took a research and evidence ‘101’ unit of study. I remember thinking at the time that research seemed interesting. My post graduate studies in midwifery opened my eyes to the nexus between evidence and practice. I was inspired by the world leading midwifery researchers who taught this course. I went on to enjoy my clinical career in midwifery and travelled quite a bit, but as a rural woman, I couldn’t ignore the issues for women and families. My master’s by research was my first foray into the subject of rural maternity care in Victoria. A great Australian midwifery researcher held out her hand (metaphorically) and supported my success. It was a simple lesson about women helping women to succeed. A simple act of kindness, but one that celebrated feminism. Something in me kept returning to the topic of rural maternity services in Victoria, and again I am honoured to be a PhD student in a team of strong female industry specialists, and midwifery researchers. These women have surrounded me, constantly challenged me, and inspired me.

If you could recommend one book for everyone at IHT to read, what would that be?

Oh gosh! The strength in my glasses’ lens has increased with the length of this PhD, so I avoid reading text unless it is relevant to work or PhD. I recently bought Braun and Clarke (2022) Thematic Analysis: A practical guide, which was a publishing godsend for this PhD journey. I have reverted to audio book and podcast in my downtime (which is not a favourite of my children). Can I suggest you get yourself over to your podcast provider and download a fabulous midwifery inspired podcast with the odd midwifery researcher interviewed.

The Great Birth Rebellion on Apple Podcasts

The Midwives’ Cauldron on Apple Podcasts

You’ve got a Saturday afternoon completely to yourself, what would we find you doing?

My Saturdays, and Sundays for that matter, consist of my family and I on the side lines of a football match. My daughter plays in a local under 18’s girls football team (Go Lancefield Tigers!) and I am the trainer…this year. I really did not know what I was getting into when I said yes to that job!

And finally, what is the best lesson you have learned so far during your research career?

It is important to believe in your ability to achieve. It is very easy to feel that imposter syndrome creep up, but this PhD life is all about learning. I would encourage all PhD students to feel confident that many others have had the same feelings yet, with one foot in front of the other and hard work, have succeeded. I’ll let you know if my positive mental imagery has worked once I’ve completed, however it has kept me in good stead so far.