Caseload midwifery as organisational change: the interplay between professional and organisational projects in Denmark
BACKGROUND: The large obstetric units typical of industrialised countries have come under criticism for fragmented and depersonalised care and heavy bureaucracy. Interest in midwife-led continuity models of care is growing, but knowledge about the accompanying processes of organisational change is scarce. This study focuses on midwives’ role in introducing and developing caseload midwifery. Sociological studies of midwifery and organisational studies of professional groups were used to capture the strong interests of midwives in caseload midwifery and their key role together with management in negotiating organisational change. METHODS: We studied three hospitals in Denmark as arenas for negotiating the introduction and development of caseload midwifery and the processes, interests and resources involved. A qualitative multi-case design was used and the selection of hospitals aimed at maximising variance. Ten individual and 14 group interviews were conducted in spring 2013. Staff was represented by caseload midwives, ward midwives, obstetricians and health visitors, management by chief midwives and their deputies. Participants were recruited to maximise the diversity of experience. The data analysis adopted a thematic approach, using within- and across-case analysis. RESULTS: The analysis revealed a highly interdependent interplay between organisational and professional projects in the change processes involved in the introduction and development of caseload midwifery. This was reflected in three ways: first, in the key role of negotiations in all phases; second, in midwives’ and management’s engagement in both types of projects (as evident from their interests and resources); and third in a high capacity for resolving tensions between the two projects. The ward midwives’ role as a third party in organisational change further complicated the process. CONCLUSIONS: For managers tasked with the introduction and development of caseload midwifery, our study underscores the importance of understanding the complexity of the underlying change processes and of activating midwives’ and managers’ interests and resources in addressing the challenges. Further studies of female-dominated professions such as midwifery should offer good opportunities for detailed analysis of the deep-seated interdependence of professional and organisational projects and for identifying the key dimensions of this interdependence.