Aims and objectives: To examine collaboration in the provision of universal health services for children and families in Australia from the perspective of midwives and child health and family health nurses.
Background: Collaboration is identified as a key concept contributing to families' smooth transition between maternity and child health services. However, evidence suggests that collaboration between services is often lacking. Few studies have explored how maternity and child health and family health services or professionals collaborate to facilitate a smooth transition.
Design: This study reports on data collected in phases 1 and 2 of a three-phase mixed-methods study investigating the feasibility of implementing a national approach to child health and family health services in Australia (Child Health: Researching Universal Services study).
Methods: In phase 1, consultations (via discussion groups, focus groups and teleconferences) were held with 45 midwives and 60 child health and family health nurses. Themes identified were used to develop phase 2 surveys. In phase 2, 1098 child health and family health nurses and 655 midwives returned surveys.
Results: Midwives and child health and family health nurses reported 'some collaboration'. Midwives and child health and family health nurses indicated that collaboration was supported by having agreement on common goals and recognising and valuing the contributions of others. Organisational barriers such as poor communication and information transfer processes obstructed relationships. Good collaboration was reported more frequently when working with other professionals (such as allied health professionals) to support families with complex needs.
Conclusion: This study provides information on the nature and extent of collaboration from the perspective of midwives and child health and family health nurses providing universal health services for children and families.
Relevance to clinical practice: Both professional groups emphasised the impact of service disconnection on families. However, their ability to negotiate professional differences is affected by system constraints and differing perspectives of what constitutes collaboration. Developing the capacity to collaborate is essential to ensure smooth transition of care given ongoing changes to the system.