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Aust Health Rev. 2009 May;33(2):315-24.

Working together: collaboration between midwives and doctors in public hospitals.

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  • 1Sociology Program, School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC 3086.


While collaborative, multidisciplinary teamwork is widely espoused as the goal of contemporary hospitals, it is hard to achieve. In maternity care especially, professional rivalries and deep-seated philosophical differences over childbirth generate significant tensions. This article draws on qualitative research in several Victorian public maternity units to consider the challenges to inter-professional collaboration. It reports what doctors and midwives looked for in colleagues they liked to work with - the attributes of a "good doctor" or a "good midwife". Although their ideals did not entirely match, both groups respected skill and hard work and sought mutual trust, respect and accountability. Yet effective working together is limited both by tensions over role boundaries and power and by incivility that is intensified by increasing workloads and a fragmented labour force. The skills and qualities that form the basis of "professional courtesy" need to be recognised as essential to good collaborative practice.

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