Background: Nursing and midwifery are demanding professions. Efforts to understand the health consequences and workforce needs of these professions are urgently needed. Using a novel electronic approach, the Nurses and Midwives e-cohort Study (NMeS) aims to investigate longitudinally Australian and New Zealand nurses' and midwives' work/life balance and health. This paper describes NMeS participation; provides key baseline demographic, workforce and health indicators; compares these baseline descriptions with external norms; and assesses the feasibility of the electronic approach.
Methods: From 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2008, nurses in Australia and New Zealand, and midwives in Australia were invited to participate. Potential participants were directed to a purpose-built NMeS Internet site, where study information was provided and consent sought. Once obtained, a range of standardized tools combined into one comprehensive electronic questionnaire was elicited.
Results: Overall, 7633 (2.3%) eligible nurses and midwives participated (6308 from Australia and 1325 from New Zealand) from a total pool of 334400. Age, gender, occupational and health profiles were similar between countries and to national figures. However, some differences were noted; for instance, Queensland participants were over-represented, while Victorian and South Australian participants were under-represented, and 28.2% of Australians were in high strain positions compared with 18.8% of New Zealanders.
Conclusions: Using an internationally novel web-based approach, a large cohort, which appears generally similar to population norms, has been established. Provided participant retention is adequate, the NMeS will provide insight into understanding the drivers of nurses' and midwives' workforce retention and work-related factors associated with their health.