NUI Galway has announced the appointment of the Republic of Ireland’s first Professor of Midwifery. Professor Declan Devane, himself a midwife, is based at NUI Galway’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. With approximately 700 students, the School is at the forefront of nursing and midwifery education and research in Ireland.
Over his 22-year career in nursing and midwifery, Professor Devane has established an international reputation as a leading researcher and scholar in his areas of expertise, which include the implementation and evaluation of models of maternity care and on methods of assessment of fetal wellbeing.
While other institutions have Chairs in nursing and midwifery, this is the first university appointment of a Chair in Midwifery. This focus on the profession of midwifery reflects trends internationally that recognise the unique and important contribution midwifery makes to high quality maternity services.
Professor Devane has taken up the Chair in Midwifery at a time when over 75,000 babies are born every year in Ireland. Commenting on his appointment, Professor Devane said that he was delighted and honoured to accept the new role: “My hope is that my appointment will enable me to work with those who seek a better service for childbearing women and their children. Most births take place against a backdrop of sub-optimal infrastructure, in large and aging hospitals with too few delivery suites.
There are also concerns about operating theatres shared for childbirth and for other surgeries. This scenario is compacted by substantial understaffing of our maternity services in terms of both midwives and obstetricians, while our community maternity services are also terribly under resourced.”
Commenting on the organisation of maternity services in Ireland, Professor Devane added: “Unlike some other areas of healthcare, there is no evidence to support that the centralisation of maternity services in large hospitals improves outcomes for women and their infants. On the contrary, there is substantial high-quality evidence demonstrating benefits for midwifery units in which the skills and expertise of midwives are used to their full potential. Common sense suggests, and scientific evidence demonstrates, that it doesn’t make clinical, social or economic sense for most women to give birth in large, centralised hospitals that are heaving at the seams. Yet, this is precisely what is happening.
Midwives, obstetricians and GPs each have their place and their role in the provision of collaborative maternity care, and no one model of care, care-giver or birth setting should be advocated for all women. However, every woman should experience the best possible care from the most appropriate professional, chosen by her, to ensure the best outcomes for her and her baby. It is vital that we make these choices a reality for women. There is bound to be a lot of new challenges ahead but that’s part of the excitement of the job.”
Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway, said: “Professor Devane has a proven record of excellence in teaching and research. Through his research work, his professional activities and his interest in developing international collaborations, Professor Devane will make a valuable contribution to the success of our School of Nursing and Midwifery, which has established a growing research reputation.”
Professor Devane qualified as a nurse in Galway and as a midwife in Bristol and Gloucestershire, where he worked before returning to Ireland to work in the Rotunda, the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital and in Trinity College Dublin.
He is a member of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Expert Network of Research Advisors, a member of the Midwifery Committee of An Bord Altranais, and an Honorary Visiting Fellow of both the UK Cochrane Centre and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.
Professor Devane is passionate about the care of children with serious illnesses, particularly those with life-limiting illness, and is a Director of the children’s cancer charity for the West, Hand in Hand (http://www.handinhand.ie). In 2009, combining fundraising activities for this charity with his love of scuba diving, he raised over €35,000 for charity and simultaneously set a Guinness World Record for the ‘Longest open saltwater SCUBA dive (cold water)’.