Should I stay or should I go?: Midwifery workforce in Rural and Remote Australia

Ms Alicia Carey1,2, Dr Alison Teate1, Professor Deborah Davis1

1University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

2Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia



There is a significant shortage of both nurses and midwives and particularly in rural and remote Australia (Department of Health, 2013).  Across Australia there are 294,390 practicing Registered Nurses, 26,438 Registered Nurse/Registered Midwife with dual registration and 5,243 Registered Midwives who are currently practicing (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2019). Attracting and retaining midwives in rural and remote locations is a constant challenge for health services (Francis, Badger, McLeod, Fitzgerald, Brown & Staines, 2016).

Maintaining healthcare services in rural areas is crucial to enabling women and their families’ access healthcare that is close to their home (Francis, McLeod, McIntyre, Mills, Miles &Bradley, 2012). With staffing shortages there is ongoing pressure with maintaining healthcare and in particular maternity services and with this escalation of ever decreasing numbers of maternity services in rural facilities there is a concern that it is leading to deskilling of practitioners (Francis et al., 2016). Some factors that have been identified to contribute to the issue include: the lack of preparedness for recently graduated nurses and midwives; the lack professional development and the lack of mentoring (Douglas, 2014).

What is happening in your project / what has been your experience?

There is minimal research that looks at Midwifery alone in the rural and remote setting. This research will explore midwives experience working in rural and remote health services and provide recommendations for stakeholders to assist in the recruitment and retention of staff to ensure that women and their families are able to access high quality maternity care.


With rural and remote health services facing additional challenges it is important that there is further research on how midwives can be supported to gaining employment and remaining in the rural and remote workforce to allow woman and families the opportunity to receive high quality, safe care.


Alicia is a PhD candidate at the University of Canberra. Alicia has extensive experience as a registered nurse/midwife and has worked in forensic mental health, rural and remote locations in New South Wales (NSW) and also experience as a remote area nurse/midwife in the Northern Territory (NT).

Alicia has been a Lecturer in Nursing and Midwifery at Charles Sturt University since 2015.

Alicia’s current research includes perinatal mental health tools for isolated women and her PhD focuses on workforce issues for early career Midwives in rural and remote Australia.