Midwives’ experiences with PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Birth in the Time of COVID (BITTOC) study

Emma C. Collins, Virginia Schmied, Sue Kildea, Hazel Keedle, Melanie Jackson, Hannah G. Dahlen

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in rapid changes aimed at reducing disease transmission in maternity services in Australia. An increase in personal protective equipment (PPE) in the clinical and community setting was a key strategy. There was variation in the type of PPE and when it was to be worn in clincial practice. Aim: This paper reports on Australian midwives’ experiences of PPE during the pandemic. Methods: This sequential mixed methods study was part of the Birth in the Time of COVID-19 (BITTOC 2020) study. Data were obtained from in-depth semi-structured interviews with midwives in 2020 followed by a national survey undertaken at two time points (2020 and 2021). Qualitative open-text survey responses and interview data were analysed using content analysis. Findings: 16 midwives were interviewed and 687 midwives provided survey responses (2020 n = 477, 2021 n = 210). Whilst midwives largley understood the need for increased PPE, and were mainly happy with this, as it was protective, they reported a number of concerns. These included: inconsistency with PPE type, use, availability, quality, fit and policy; the impact of PPE on the physical and psychological comfort of midwives; and the barriers PPE use placed on communication and woman centred care. This at times resulted in midwives working outside of policy. Conclusion: These findings highlight the need for future comprehensive pandemic preparedness that ensures policy and procedure recommendations are consistent and PPE is available, of approriate quality, and individually fitted in order to ensure that Australian maternity services are well placed to manage future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104016
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


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