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Theory and Practice

Sep 15th, 2013 Training

The last few weeks I’ve had to do readings on nursing theory. You see, when you are going to become a professional researcher, you need to understand the framework of the discipline within which you intend to study. This gave me two thoughts to share with you.

First, the reality of practice is that a midwife is by nature an inter-disciplinary practitioner. You must understand physiology, development, medicine, sociology, psychology, pharmacology…need I go on?  It makes me wonder what role a discipline-specific theory plays in a multi-discipline practice.  I am not alone.  Midwifery’s sister discipline, nursing, has been struggling through this concept for the better part of 60 years.  If nursing uses knowlege from so many disciplines, what is unique about nursing?

The second is that theory drives your perception of real-life situations.  Whether you know it or not, you are subscribing to different “theories” of pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. These theories may not be spelled out with diagrams of conceptual frameworks or models, but they are verbally shared through the apprentice process, and they are shared through the books want-to-be midwives read as they prepare for childbirth, doula work or to become childbirth educators. I would challenge you to spend some time really considering the theories you are learning.  How do those theories drive your decision making during normal pregnancy and birth? How do they drive your perceptions of unusual and unhealthy variations?

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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