Midwifery research grants: opportunities to improve perinatal care one research project at a time
September 2, 2020
Erica Elderhorst BHSc, MSc, RM, is a Registered Midwife in Southern Ontario. She began practicing midwifery in 2016 after graduating from the Midwifery Education Program (MEP) at McMaster University. She is a fellow at the McMaster Midwifery Research Centre and has just completed her MSc in Health Research Methodology at McMaster University.
Eileen Eloi, Administrator for the Clinical Knowledge Translation Department at the AOM, reached out to Erica for a glimpse into how her research ideas came to fruition as a grantee of both the AOM’s Mentored and Career Research Grants and what advice she would offer to prospective future candidates.
AOM: What led you to your research subject matters for both the AOM’s mentored and career grants?
Erica: Due to scope restrictions in hospitals across the province, I felt that that midwifery management of oxytocin induction of labour was a very timely and clinically relevant question and was possible with the data I had access to. I applied for the Mentored Research Grant with Dr. Eileen Hutton as my supervisor and was awarded that in April 2017. I have since published that paper in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada (JOGC).
In April 2019, I was awarded the Career Midwifery Grant to conduct a randomized controlled feasibility trial (RCT) exploring the use of sodium bicarbonate for the prevention of labour dystocia. I began developing the protocol for this study as coursework in my MSc program and we have continued to develop it as a team since.
AOM: What did you hope to achieve with this particular research – how did you envision this work affecting the midwifery community?
Erica: The midwifery scope of practice is unique in obstetrical care and also somewhat different from midwifery in other countries. As a result, the existing evidence base is not always applicable to our unique circumstances. My intention with the first study was to contribute to the evidence base around midwifery management of oxytocin. This study may assist those who are struggling to work to their full scope of practice in their hospitals. The intervention in the sodium bicarbonate RCT is less midwifery specific, but will be conducted in the midwifery population for the purposes of the study. Pragmatic interventions (that is, easy to use under normal circumstances) such as this one are highly relevant to the midwifery community because they have the potential to reduce consults and transfers of care or decrease the need for later interventions due to complications.
AOM: What was your greatest challenge with conducting this research?
Erica: I think that the biggest challenge I have faced with both studies has been time. Practicing as a midwife, doing a full-time masters program, and doing these projects on the side has been challenging but very rewarding. I have learned a lot from both studies, and the mentorship that I received by Dr. Eileen Hutton and her team was invaluable.
AOM: How did you go about finding a mentor?
Erica: Part of my goal when coming to work in Hamilton was to be able to get involved in research at McMaster University. In my first year of practice, I contacted Dr. Eileen Hutton to ask if I could get involved in research that she and her team were working on. She had an available data set that she offered for me to use. This eventually led me to become a fellow in the McMaster Midwifery Research Centre (MMRC).
AOM: How did you balance your academics and career with this research?
Erica: This has been the biggest challenge. I was awarded the first grant during my new registrant year of practice and the second I was awarded while practising and doing my masters full time. I used my time off call to do much of this work. I tried to treat the projects as I would coursework. I set myself deadlines, broke tasks down and completed what I could when I had the time. I have also had significant support from the team in the MMRC, so I have not been working alone.
AOM: What advice would you give to a student contemplating submitting a mentored research grant proposal?
- Find a supportive mentor. This has been essential to my learning and my ability to do this work.
- Grant funding can get spent quickly. Allocate your funds wisely and find ways to use it to support your needs and learning.
- Ensure you choose a project with an appropriate scope given the timeframe of the grant. Always account for things to take a little bit longer than expected.
- Use this as your opportunity to learn a lot!
AOM: What was the biggest lesson you learned while completing your research that you would want others to know?
Erica: This is a tough one. I’ve learned lots of lessons to take into future projects. I suppose the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how expensive projects can be and how often things need to be changed or modified to meet the challenges that occur.
AOM: What impact has the AOM research grant program had on your midwifery career?
Erica: I was very fortunate to be able to conduct a study from start to finish. I developed the idea, applied for the grant, cleaned the data, analysed the data, presented at conferences, and published the paper. I learned a lot through every stage of the process, which was helpful going into my MSc program. This also gave me the skills I needed to apply for the career grant. I’ve developed a network of colleagues and friends through this work and I feel fortunate to have the support I’ve had for both studies. All of the experience I’ve gained will allow me to continue learning and being involved in research.