Cue acquisition: A feature of malawian midwives decision making process to support normality during the first stage of labour

Elizabeth Chodzaza, Elaine Haycock-Stuart, Aisha Holloway, Rosemary Mander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

To explore Malawian midwives decision making when caring for women during the first stage of labour in the hospital setting.

Design and methods
This focused ethnographic study examined the decision making process of 9 nurse-midwives with varying years of clinical experience in the real world setting of an urban and semi urban hospital from October 2013 to May 2014.This was done using 27 participant observations and 27 post-observation in-depth interviews over a period of six months. Qualitative data analysis software, NVivo 10, was used to assist with data management for the analysis. All data was analysed using the principle of theme and category formation.

Analysis revealed a six-stage process of decision making that include a baseline for labour, deciding to admit a woman to labour ward, ascertaining the normal physiological progress of labour, supporting the normal physiological progress of labour, embracing uncertainty: the midwives’ construction of unusual labour as normal, dealing with uncertainty and deciding to intervene in unusual labour. This six-stage process of decision making is conceptualised as the ‘role of cue acquisition’, illustrating the ways in which midwives utilise their assessment of labouring women to reason and make decisions on how to care for them in labour. Cue acquisition involved the midwives piecing together segments of information they obtained from the women to formulate an understanding of the woman's birthing progress and inform the midwives decision making process. This understanding of cue acquisition by midwives is significant for supporting safe care in the labour setting. When there was uncertainty in a woman's progress of labour, midwives used deductive reasoning, for example, by cross-checking and analysing the information obtained during the span of labour. Supporting normal labour physiological processes was identified as an underlying principle that shaped the midwives clinical judgement and decision making when they cared for women in labour.

Key conclusions and implications for practice
The significance of this study is in the new understanding and insight into the process of midwifery decision making. Whilst the approach to decision making by the midwives requires further testing and refinement in order to explore implications for practice, the findings here provide new conceptual and practical clarity of midwifery decision making. The work contributes to the identified lack of knowledge of how midwives working clinically, in the ‘real world setting. These findings therefore, contribute to this body of knowledge with regards to our understanding of decision making of midwives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-63
Early online date6 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • decision making
  • decision making theories
  • first stage of labour
  • labour assessment
  • midwifery practice
  • obstructed labour


Dive into the research topics of 'Cue acquisition: A feature of malawian midwives decision making process to support normality during the first stage of labour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this