Dr Ethel Burns


Senior Lecturer in Midwifery

Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery

Ethel Burns


Ethel's teaching interests are focused primarily on facilitating students to make explicit links between clinical practice and the best available evidence to underpin it and to stimulate appetite to engage with research projects. Involvement in generating evidence coupled with the ability to interpret and communicate it sensitively and effectively when negotiating care provision with individual women is a quintessential clinical and academic skill. Ethel has significant clinical, educational and strategic level experience working in a range of high, middle and low-income countries; an interest heightened by the global review of midwifery - published in the Lancet Series on Midwifery. 

She cares passionately about enhancing women's health and wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond. She is particularly interested in care during labour and birth and a primary focus for her research is around water immersion during labour and waterbirth. 

As an active researcher, Ethel is committed to developing midwifery research capacity and building research collaborations. She welcomes inquiries about potential research opportunities from other researchers in the area of pregnancy and childbirth across a range of high, middle and low-income countries.

She is the subject coordinator for the Postgraduate, Pre-registration midwifery course. MSc students are routinely supported to undertake primary research for their dissertation projects.

Ethel Burns

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

Ethel teaches on a range of modules that include public health, clinical care, physiology, research designs and methodologies.

Module lead for:

  • Midwifery Research Proposal
  • MSc Dissertation
  • Approaching Autonomy


Ethel supervises MSc midwifery student dissertations, which mainly comprise primary research projects.

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
Ms Rebecca Parker The experience of midwives during intrapartum emergencies in community settings Active


Water immersion during labour and waterbirth is an area of clinical expertise and research over several years. Introduced the first birth pool prototype in and NHS unit in Oxford, 1990. 
Several publications on this topic area including a large prospective observational study that compared what typically happens to women who labour and/or give birth in water in their planned place of birth. This was the first and remains the only study to have done so. 

Current projects include:

  • Equity of access: Hull LMS/Royal Infirmary NHS Hospitals trust: mixed methods study to examine the option of a subsidised birth pool hire in the community and birth pool use in the Fatima Allam midwifery unit on the uptake, experiences and outcomes of water immersion during labour and birth among women and midwives.
  • estiMATE: Improving clinician skill and confidence in visual blood loss estimation during waterbirth
    An online course. USP live model simulations filmed in real time.
    Practice tips based on best available evidence.
    (Inquiries about this resource are welcome)
  • Expanding the evidence base:  "A systematic review and meta-analysis to examine intrapartum interventions, and maternal and neonatal outcomes following immersion in water during labour and waterbirth" Prospero 2019 CRD42019147001 Revised July 2020
    An international collaboration.

Additional research interests include:

  • Intrapartum physiology, care and outcomes; for example, perineal trauma
  • Promoting maternal health and wellbeing during pregnancy and the postnatal period - in particular, alcohol consumption, healthy eating, staying active, inspiring women to feel self-confident about their innate capacity to enjoy pregnancy and give birth
  • Factors that shape the organisation of maternity care provision including models of care.

Ethel is also an active reviewer for the Cochrane library

Centres and institutes



  • estiMATE
  • Water immersion during labour and waterbirth: women with risk factors


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • The Cochrane Library
  • Member of the Maternal and Newborn Forum, Royal Society of Medicine  
  • Member of an Italian initiative, Instituto Ricerca de Interventi Salute (IRIS),  linked to Milan University and led by an obstetrician, paediatrician and behavioural psychologist. IRIS promotes the adoption of evidence-based midwifery and obstetric practice, runs workshops for maternity caregivers throughout Italy and holds an international annual conference.


Ethel has done a range of consultancy work in the UK and beyond and is happy to be contacted for further information.