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Discursive constructions of student midwives’ professional identities: A discourse analysis

Mcluckie, Connie; Kuipers, Yvonne



The construction and performance of professional identity is significant to broader socio-cultural understandings of who ‘professionals’ are and what they do. Importantly, it is also implicated in the development and enactment of policy, regulation, education, and professional practice. Professional identity is linked to self-esteem, self-efficacy, professional value, confidence and success. The salience of this in relation to midwifery practice is highly significant; aspects of autonomy, confidence, competence, responsibility, and accountability are all implicated in the provision of safe and effective care.

To explore how student midwives are constructed in the discourses of policy, professionalism, and learning, to provide new perspectives to inform, policy, education, and practice.

An adapted critical discourse analysis of the United Kingdom (UK) Nursing and Midwifery Council’s 2009 Standards for pre-registration midwifery education, using a three-step process: exploring discourse at the level of (1) discursive practice (2) linguistic features of the text, and (3) social practice.

Findings/ Discussion
The discourses that relate to midwifery education and practice emerge within socio-political and historical contexts. Constructions of identity are articulated through a rule-bound framework which includes competence, confidence and ‘good health and good character’. There is a requirement for midwives to ‘be’ responsible, accountable, autonomous, professional, competent, and confident. Regulatory power is reinforced through medico-legal discourses, with the status of midwifery discursively presented as inferior to medicine.

According to the Standards, midwives must be a lot of things in their role and function. The Standards’ discourses are authoritative, legislative and controlling, creating an ideology about professional status and agency which constructs an ‘imaginary autonomy’; becoming a midwife is more automatic (with the perception of control), than agentic. All of which has significance for the social practice of midwifery

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 14, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 20, 2023
Publication Date 2024-01
Deposit Date Nov 29, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 29, 2023
Journal Nurse Education in Practice
Print ISSN 1471-5953
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 74
Article Number 103847
Keywords Education; Discourse analysis; Professional identity; Professionalism Regulation; Student midwife; Ideology; Professional standards; Midwifery
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