OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of early career midwives in Australia and identify the organisational, work environment, personal factors and stressors that influence workforce participation. DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative study, using in-depth semi-structured interviews, was undertaken with midwives 6 - 7 years post-qualification. Qualitative content analysis identified key themes and sub-themes. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-eight midwives from one Australian university (graduating years 2007 and 2008) were included. Their pre-registration education was via either a Bachelor of Midwifery (direct-entry) or a Gradate Diploma of Midwifery (post-nursing degree). FINDINGS: Three themes were generated: (i) ‘sinking and swimming’; (ii) ‘needing a supportive helping hand’; and (iii) ‘being a midwife … but’. The initial transition into midwifery was overwhelming for most participants, particularly when providing intrapartum care. Job satisfaction was strongly related to having a well-developed midwife-woman relationship in clinical care and being able to work to their full scope of practice. Dissatisfaction stemmed from remuneration concerns, inflexibility of rostering, high workloads, and poor managerial approaches. Experiences of bullying were ubiquitous. Factors inducing midwives to stay in their profession were not the absence of those that caused dissatisfaction. The midwife-woman relationship sustained their practice despite those factors that caused dissatisfaction. KEY CONCLUSIONS: Building strategies that strengthen job satisfaction in midwives is vital. Strategies that provide relational aspects of midwifery practice, ongoing support, rostering flexibility, induce psychological wellbeing, and address workplace bullying, may assist in the early career transition. Access to continuity of midwifery care models as new graduates is warranted. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Continued professional development and career progression strategies are needed for midwives to cultivate their midwifery skills and work to their [potential.
Link to publisher’s web site](https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2020.102880 “”)