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Discursive constructions of professional identity - the myth of the midwife

McLuckie, Connie



This paper discusses a discourse analysis of regulatory policy which formed part of my doctoral study ‘Powers, passages and passengers: the construction and performance of student midwives’ professional identities’ (Mcluckie, 2021). The title employs a midwifery metaphor. I use it allegorically as a metaphor for the ‘powers’ of policy, the ‘passages’ of professional learning, and the students as ‘passengers’ therein. The thesis questioned what is taken for granted about midwives’ identities and explored the ways in which the discourses of policy construct midwifery identities as ‘social realities’ (Fairclough, 1992, p.169).
I explore discursive constructions of ‘midwives’ in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Standards for pre-registration midwifery education (SPRME) (NMC, 2009) and I explain a three-step process of discourse analysis as the means of interrogation. I examine how policy shapes midwives’ identities and creates preferred ‘subject positions’ for midwives to adopt. I propose that the (SPRME) reflect the ideological imperatives of the NMC and argue that the ‘midwives’ of policy are regulatory hegemony – a myth.
Although understanding the ways in which professional identity is constructed and performed provides insight into those discourses which impede (and possibly counter) progress, and those which enable it; my thesis indicates that there is a disconnect in the order of midwifery discourse as to how student midwives are discursively constructed in the SPRME, the AEI, and those identities that emerge in clinical practice. Where there is a professional duty to safeguard the public, it is a requirement to understand which of these identities is fit for purpose. Birth is inherently and increasingly complex, and just as I argue that the ‘midwife’ is a myth, so is the ‘normal’ birth that falls within their remit. If the SPRME are the means by which the public understand what midwives are responsible and accountable for, then a limited picture of what constitutes professional practice is presented. For student midwives, the intellectual project of professionalism is not prevalent in their constructions and performances of their midwifery identities. Instead, real midwifery is what is done with the hands upon the surface of the body. But that is a different paper.
Fairclough, N. (1992) Discourse and social change. Cambridge: Polity Press.
NMC (2009) ‘Standards for Pre-registration midwifery education’. London: Nursing and Midwifery Council.


McLuckie, C. (2022, November). Discursive constructions of professional identity - the myth of the midwife. Paper presented at Scotland Maternity and Midwifery Festival 2022, Edinburgh, UK

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Scotland Maternity and Midwifery Festival 2022
Start Date Nov 29, 2022
Deposit Date Jun 19, 2024
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed