Burnout of the US midwifery workforce and the role of practice environment

E. Brie Thumm, Denise C. Smith, Allison P. Squires, Ginger Breedlove, Paula M. Meek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of burnout among the midwifery workforce and the association between fixed personal and practice characteristics and modifiable organizational factors, specifically practice environment, to burnout among midwives in the United States. Data Source: Primary data collection was conducted via an online survey of the complete national roster of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives over 3 weeks in April 2017. Study Design: The study was a cross-sectional observational survey consisting of 95 items about personal and practice characteristics, respondents' practice environments, and professional burnout. Data Collection Methods: The inclusion criterion was actively practicing midwifery in the United States. Data were analyzed with bivariate analyses to determine the association between personal and practice characteristics and burnout. A hierarchal multilinear regression evaluated the interrelationship between personal and practice characteristics, practice environment, and burnout. Principal Findings: Of the almost one third (30.9%) of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives who responded to the survey, 40.6% met criteria for burnout. Weak negative correlations existed between burnout and indicators of career longevity: age (r(2256) = −0.09, p < 0.01), years as a midwife (r(2267) = −0.07, p = 0.01), and years with employer (r(2271) = −0.05, p = 0.02). There were significant relationships between burnout score and patient workload indicators: patients per day in outpatient setting (F(5,2292) = 13.995, p < 0.01), birth volume (F(3,1864) = 8.35, p < 0.01), and patient acuity (F(2,2295) = 20.21, p < 0.01). When the practice environment was entered into the model with personal and practice characteristics, the explained variance increased from 6.4% to 26.5% (F(20,1478) = 27.98, p < 0.01). Conclusions: Our findings suggested that a key driver of burnout among US midwives was the practice environment, specifically practice leadership and participation and support for the midwifery model of care. Structural and personal characteristics contributed less to burnout score than the practice environment, implying that prevention of burnout may be achieved through organizational support and does not require structural changes to the provision of perinatal health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-363
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number2
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Burnout, Professional/epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery
  • Nurse Midwives
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States/epidemiology
  • Workforce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Burnout of the US midwifery workforce and the role of practice environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this