Can managers empower nurse-midwives to improve maternal health care? A comparison of two resource-poor hospitals in Tanzania

Int J Health Plann Manage. 2016 Oct;31(4):379-395. doi: 10.1002/hpm.2279. Epub 2015 Feb 24.


Maternal mortality is very high in Tanzania. Competent hospital care is key to improving maternal outcomes, but there is a crisis of availability and performance of health workers in maternal care. This article uses interviews with managers, nurse-midwives, and women who had given birth in two hospitals providing virtually all the emergency maternal care in one Tanzania city. It contrasts women's experience in the two hospitals, and analyses interconnections with nurse-midwives' and managers' experiences of working conditions. The conceptual literature on nurse empowerment identifies some key explanatory variables for these contrasts. Staff experienced less frustration and constraint in one of the hospitals; had more access to structurally empowering resources; and experienced greater congruence between job commitment and working culture, resulting in better work engagement. Conversely, nurse-midwives in the other hospital were constrained by supply shortages and recurrent lack of support. Contrasting management styles and their impacts demonstrate that even in severely resource-constrained environments, there is room for management to empower staff to improve maternal care. Empowering management practices include participatory management, supportive supervision, better incentives, and clear leadership concerning ward culture. Structural constraints beyond the capacity of health facility managers must however also be addressed. © 2015 The Authors. International Journal of Health Planning and Management published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: Tanzania; empowerment; engagement; maternal care; nurse management.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Resources
  • Hospital Administration* / methods
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Maternal Health Services / standards
  • Nurse Midwives / organization & administration*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Tanzania