Student midwives in the UK are bullied no end by their seniors. They have told a survey that they are belittled and shouted at in front of staff if they ask for help. The abuse is ruining their self-esteem and confidence, they say.
One said: 'There is a gang culture within the unit, and sometimes a midwife - for whatever reason - has just not been accepted by the midwives and has, through bitchy behaviour, suffered and left the unit.'
They complained of being intimidated and excessively criticised, saying their work was belittled, their competency was questioned and their skills and efforts were undervalued.
Students said they were most often bullied by another midwife, usually their mentor or ward sister, although university lecturers and tutors were also blamed.
'I think that some midwives view it as an initiation or to test how tough you are,' one student midwife told the academics from the University of Ulster who carried out the survey.
Another described it as a power-trip for the senior nursing staff.
The dossier, compiled at the end of a five-year survey, warned that action must be taken to curb the bullying.
It said: 'All qualified midwives should examine their own behaviour and endeavour to relate in a more collegial manner with students who are, after all, the future hope of the midwifery profession.'
The study recommended student midwives be taught how to deal with bullying and how to offer support to colleagues.
It called for all qualified midwives to examine their own behaviour, particularly when dealing with student midwives. It also recommended that the nature of bullying, and how it happened in practice, should be added to curricula for midwife education.
One of the authors, Professor Marlene Sinclair, said the health service and its supporters 'need to face up to the fear that surrounds this phenomenon and take a proactive approach, which clearly labels bullying as a behaviour that is not acceptable within 21st Century midwifery'.
A total of 164 student midwives were questioned in the survey, a small sample.
A spokesman for the Royal College of Midwives said: 'We are aware that bullying exists within the profession and the NHS.
'We work closely with everyone in the profession to try and eradicate this.'