‘We aren't valued for who we are’: Australian nurses’ and midwives’ perceptions of challenges and barriers to safeguarding children

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Purpose: Professionals working with children, including nurses and midwives, are foundational to effectively safeguarding children from maltreatment. However, little is known about the full nature and scope of nurses' and midwives' roles in safeguarding children in Australia presenting barriers to effective workforce preparation and support. 

Design and methods: This study reports an inductive analysis of qualitative responses (n = 51 Round 1, n = 17 Round 2) from a two-round Delphi study. The Delphi study aimed to build consensus on the nature and scope of nursing and midwifery practice in safeguarding children, and this manuscript presents findings of an inductive analysis of qualitative responses beyond the scope of the Delphi study. Participants were Australian nurses and midwives (n = 51, n = 17) from diverse child-focussed settings. 

Results: Nurses and midwives experienced many factors outside of their control that restricted their capacity to safeguard children. Influences included high workloads, burnout, lack of support, poor collaboration, structural barriers and inaccessible services for children. 

Conclusions: Nurses and midwives are advocates for children but experienced many factors preventing them from effectively safeguarding children. Future approaches to reducing child maltreatment must be underpinned by support for frontline professionals to promote workforce capacity and sustainability. 

Practice implications: Despite nurses' and midwives' best intentions, their attempts to prevent and respond to child maltreatment were hampered by systemic factors beyond their control. This study highlighted the need to address broader influences on nursing and midwifery practice to reduce the impacts of child maltreatment and support children to thrive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e16-e23
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatric Nursing
Early online date8 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2024


  • Child abuse
  • Child health
  • Midwifery
  • Nurses
  • Qualitative research
  • Safeguarding


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