Midwives' and health visitors' collaborative relationships: A systematic review of qualitative and quantitative studies.25 Jun 2018
OBJECTIVES: Interprofessional collaboration between midwives and health visitors working in maternal and child health services is widely encouraged. This systematic review aimed to identify existing and potential areas for collaboration between midwives and health visitors; explore the methods through which collaboration is and can be achieved; assess the effectiveness of this relationship between these groups, and ascertain whether the identified examples of collaboration are in line with clinical guidelines and policy. DESIGN: A narrative synthesis of qualitative and quantitative studies. DATA SOURCES: Fourteen electronic databases, research mailing lists, recommendations from key authors and reference lists and citations of included papers. REVIEW METHODS: Papers were included if they explored one or a combination of: the areas of practice in which midwives and health visitors worked collaboratively; the methods that midwives and health visitors employed when communicating and collaborating with each other; the effectiveness of collaboration between midwives and health visitors; and whether collaborative practice between midwives and health visitors meet clinical guidelines. Papers were assessed for study quality. RESULTS: Eighteen papers (sixteen studies) met the inclusion criteria. The studies found that midwives and health visitors reported valuing interprofessional collaboration, however this was rare in practice. Findings show that collaboration could be useful across the service continuum, from antenatal care, transition of care/handover, to postnatal care. Evidence for the effectiveness of collaboration between these two groups was equivocal and based on self-reported data. In relation, multiple enablers and barriers to collaboration were identified. Communication was reportedly key to interprofessional collaboration. CONCLUSIONS: Interprofessional collaboration was valuable according to both midwives and health visitors, however, this was made challenging by several barriers such as poor communication, limited resources, and poor understanding of each other's role. Structural barriers such as physical distance also featured as a challenge to interprofessional collaboration. Although the findings are limited by variable methodological quality, these were consistent across time, geographical locations, and health settings, indicating transferability and reliability.