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Workplace bullying: The midwifery student experience

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posted on 2021-06-14, 03:41 authored by Tanya CapperTanya Capper
Aim: To explore and describe midwifery students’ experiences of being the target of workplace bullying whilst on clinical placement in Australia and the United Kingdom. Background: The incidence of workplace bullying has increased dramatically in recent years and is now a major global public health concern. Workplace bullying is generally referred to as repeated unwanted behaviour towards others that is intended to cause harm, occurring within the workplace. Students undertaking placement in the clinical environment, however, only need to experience a one-off incident of inappropriate or unfair treatment for it to have a lasting adverse effect upon them. Healthcare settings provide the ideal environment for such behaviours to flourish, particularly as they are places where power differentials are commonplace. This in turn can impact staff and student wellbeing, patient safety, staff absenteeism, turnover, and productivity. Midwives are reported to commonly experience workplace bullying, leading to work dissatisfaction and subsequent attrition from the profession. Limited research, which has been predominantly quantitative and mixed methods in nature has revealed that midwifery students too are being bullied whilst on clinical placement. Gaps in the literature exist where midwifery students offer their own personal experiences of being the targets of bullying whilst on clinical placement and how this impacts them and other relevant stakeholders. Methods: This study was a qualitative descriptive design. Midwifery students based in the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia that had experienced perceived workplace bullying whilst on clinical placement were recruited via purposive sampling. Approval was obtained from the CQUniversity Australia Human Research Ethics Committee to conduct this study. Data Collection and Analysis: Data was collected using an anonymous online qualitative survey. The survey consisted of two main parts; demographic questions and open-ended questions to enable the students to explain their experiences in more detail. In total, 335 midwifery students responded to the study advertisement and confirmed that they had experienced bullying whilst on clinical placement. A total of 215 participants completed just the demographic section of the survey however, 120 participants provided participant generated textual data by fully completing or partially completing the open-ended questions. Data were thematically analysed using Braun and Clarkes (2006) six phase process. Findings: Midwifery students indicated that being the target of bullying effected them on several personal and professional levels which has the potential to have further reaching impacts upon the reputation of the profession, the quality of care provided to mothers and babies, and the quality of midwifery education. Moreover, the findings suggested that different groups of midwifery students experience bullying in different ways and the social context of the maternity unit significantly influences the way in which bullying behaviours are enacted and are accepted by others towards them. Midwifery students perceive a number of antecedents to being bullied exist and feel that both academic and clinical organisations could do more to provide support to them and tackle the issue of bullying in order to help ensure the future sustainability of the midwifery profession. Conclusions: This study suggests that midwifery students being bullied may have a number of impacts upon students and other key stakeholders. In order to ensure and sustain the future of the midwifery profession, more needs to be done by academic and clinical organisations to address bullying towards midwifery students and prevent the continuation of the bullying cycle.



Central Queensland University

Additional Rights

give permission for the digital version of my thesis to be made available on the web, via CQUniversity’s institutional repository, ACQUIRE, for the purpose of research or private study, unless permission has been granted by the University to restrict access for a period of time

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No


Professor Moira Williamson ; Associate Professor Olav Muurlink

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • With publication