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Dr Sally Pezaro

Award Received: 
Midwives Award
Exploring UK midwives’ problematic substance use, health outcomes, work engagement, and leaving intentions one year into the COVID-19 lockdown
Year awarded: 

As a panellist for the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Investigating committee I am frequently concerned by cases of problematic substance use (PSU) in both nursing and midwifery populations. Yet in the exploration of this issue, findings in relation to midwives are often conflated with those related to nurses.

Therefore, in response to both my personal and professional experiences in this area, I was keen on being the first to move this agenda forward in research. Prior to being awarded the Midwives Award from the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust, we had published the following founding work in this area:

  • Pezaro, S., Patterson, J., Moncrieff, G., & Ghai, I. (2020). A systematic integrative review of the literature on midwives and student midwives engaged in problematic substance use. Midwifery, 89, 102785.

  • Pezaro, S., Maher, K., Bailey, E., & Pearce, G. (2021). Problematic substance use: an assessment of workplace implications in midwifery. Occupational medicine, 71(9), 460-466.

  • Pezaro, S. (2020). Exploring problematic substance use among registered midwives. British Journal of Midwifery, 28(4), 216-217.

  • Pezaro, S., & Maher, K. (2021). Midwives' substance use. British Journal of Midwifery, 29(4), 190-191.

This founding work revealed a paucity of literature in relation to PSU in midwifery populations, along with worrying levels of PSU in practice and several barriers to seeking help.

Ultimately, we found that there was much more to be done in pursuit of optimising the midwifery workforce to support excellence in perinatal care.

I was keen to have the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust associated with the next phase of our research as a forward thinking and well-respected organisation. Thus, I was thrilled to become a recipient of the Midwives Award in 2021 and be able to credit the funding of our work to the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.

This phase of our research was focussed on exploring UK midwives’ problematic substance use, health outcomes, work engagement, and leaving intentions one year into the COVID-19 lockdown. I was able to use these funds to boost our recruitment via social media posts to enable more midwifery voices to be heard. I was also able to present our work using the voices of our participants at the British Academy of Management Conference in September 2021.

The British Academy of Management Conference is one of the largest and most prestigious international events for human resources, business, and management (including healthcare management) scholars. Attracting world class researchers from over 50 countries worldwide, the conference provides a friendly, supportive environment to receive feedback share ideas and find inspiration. As I was also enabled to use the funds awarded to procure BAM membership, I was also able to engage in career-focussed training events, networking and feedback opportunities, and access to Special Interest Group networks throughout the year to enhance my own professional development.

I was also able to use the funds awarded to attend and present our work at the Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference in June 2021, and the International Practitioner Health Summit 2022: The Wounded Healer - Hope and Healing beyond Covid.

We were also able to highlight the importance of our work in MIDIRS Midwifery Digest and via the maternity and midwifery hour.

Pezaro, S., & Maher, K. (2021). New research explores midwives' problematic substance use one year on from the first COVID-19 lockdown. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 31(2), 142-143.

We recognised that this area of research engages an exceptionally sensitive topic which must be handled expertly in partnership with media outlets. It was anticipated that there would (and will) be much media interest in this research. Thus, I was incredibly grateful to be able to use the funds award to also receive professional media training in this area to steer the media narratives around this research in positive and constructive directions, whilst staving off any unwanted media attention accordingly.

Successful examples of associated media pieces are included in The Guardian and

I am also now able to use this training to plan for media involvement and impact activities as this project progresses onto future phases.

Immediate post pandemic data collection associated with midwives’ PSU has now concluded. Once data analysis is completed, we will publish the full comparative results in an appropriate academic journal. 

To follow and engage in this work moving forward please follow me online – The best is yet to come…

Dr Sally Pezaro

Twitter: @SallyPezaro