Jane Margaret Connell Paula Puawe Sue Devine


Background: Research is fundamental in improving health through informing health practices and policies. Despite significant capacity building in some areas to support health research efforts, research capacity in low-middle countries, such as Papua New Guinea, is weak. Bachelor of Midwifery students at the University of Goroka, between 2012 and 2016, were introduced to research and produced a proposal for a small study to be implemented when they returned to their place of work as qualified midwives. Despite students being very enthusiastic about carrying out the research during the development of their research proposal, there was limited evidence of them being able to successfully complete their research. This study aimed to understanding the barriers perceived by the graduate midwives to performing research in their own setting so as to inform development of strategies to support the students and graduates in their research efforts in the future.

Methods: An exploratory, descriptive study was conducted using a qualitative approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine Bachelor of Midwifery graduates from the University of Goroka practising in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Data was thematically analysed using Braun and Clark’s six stage approach and themes and sub-themes identified.

Findings: Participants viewed research as a skill set and a tool that could be used for problem solving, improving practice and creating evidence. Although some participants were confident with some research skills and had started a research study, they felt they did not have enough skills to complete the study. Others stated that although they were interested to undertake research, they did not understand the research process, and were lacking in knowledge and skills. Barriers to performing research identified by participants included lack of time, lack of support in the workplace, lack of resources and no culture of research in the workplace. Enablers identified included having an experienced researcher as a mentor, having access to ongoing training in research and other skills, e.g. computer and internet use, having resources such as books and internet access, having time during work to undertake research, and having support in workplace.

Conclusion: Despite some introductory integration of research knowledge and skills into undergraduate midwifery curriculum and a perception by graduate midwives that research is important it does not translate into graduate midwives professional practice. Bachelor of Midwifery curricula must increase the amount of time spent on research content which must be taught in practical ways and by experienced educators so students are inspired and skilled to undertake research.

The barriers need to be acknowledged and organisational changes made to enhance the opportunities for graduate midwives to undertake research.  This includes ongoing training and skill development following graduation, mentoring and support by experienced researchers and organisational commitment including time allocations for research.


Original Research