Friday, November 30, 2007
The outcome of the online midwifery research meeting
Tonight I had the second of my ad hoc online meetings for midwives. This meeting had a research focus. As a PhD candidate, I feel quite isolated at times. My research supervisors are both in Australia as are my fellow students who are involved in e-health research. There are a number of midwives in New Zealand who are carrying out PhD research but I do not ever see them as they are in different parts of the country. I co-founded a PhD support group at Otago Polytechnic, but that has virtually folded. So I really miss that sense of fellowship that is generated when a group of students/researchers get together to support each other and exchange information.
I have been particularly envious of midwives who have been able to attend research groups that have been organized in the UK, especially as those midwives are able to 'access' midwifery researchers who are leaders in the profession, not just in the UK but also internationally. So this is the rationale for organizing an online meeting - to increase access to information, support, networking and collaboration that those of us who work in isolation would not normally have.
This is a good idea in theory, and there has been interest expressed in this concept, but sadly only one other person turned up to the meeting. We had a great chat about our research and have plans to collaborate on several projects after Christmas, although we will probably use Skype for our personal communication.
So why have my two online midwifery meetings been relatively unsuccessful?
I think the key reason is that midwives are still relatively unfamiliar with online tools - they lack the confidence to 'give it a go', especially with the level of computer skills required to use Elluminate. Having said that, my colleague who joined me tonight calls herself a technophobe, and she found the session relatively easy to access.
Midwives also have to see the benefit of this form of engagement. Life is extremely busy and stressful at the best of times. So unless there is a clear benefit to the midwife, then it is unlikely she/he is going to take the time out to attend such a meeting. No doubt access to computers can also be problematic. Maybe, the timing is bad being that it is very near to Christmas?
So where to from here? Is this worth pursuing - is it worth me putting energy into organizing regular meetings next year or should I drop it for the time being? Is this something midwives are interested in and have the time to engage with? If I pursue it, what should I make the focus - midwifery in general or midwifery research?
If I pursued this and planned monthly meetings, I think I would use the same format that Leigh Blackall does with his online meetings - 10 minutes presentation and then open discussion. How would you feel abut taking part and giving your time to give a presentation, especially if there was no payment?
So there a few questions and issues to mull over. I would really welcome any thoughts, comments or volunteers to be a speaker next year!
Reference: Stewart, S. 2006. Delivering the goods: Midwives use of the Internet. In M. Murero & R. Rice (Eds.) The Internet and Healthcare. Mahwah, Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Image: 'meeting adjourned'