Professor Liz Smythe

profile image

Programme Leader DHSc, Associate Head of School of Clinical Sciences

Phone: +64 921 9999 ext 7196


Physical Address:
MB221 AUT South
PO Box 92006
Postal Address:
Faculty of Health and Environmental Science, AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142



Memberships and Affiliations:

New Zealand College of Midwives
New Zealand Nurses Organisation.


I began my career in health as a student nurse at Middlemore Hospital in 1971. After travelling to Europe I returned to do the orthopaedic course, and then did my midwifery training at St Helens, Auckland. I became a Charge Midwife in Delivery Suite at Middlemore, and started doing university papers extramurally from Massey University. A visit to the campus sowed the idea of taking time out to become a full time student, doing my Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Nursing Studies (with a midwifery focus) and doing a wide variety of papers from across the University. That led me to a teaching job at AIT. As the Technical Institute moved on to become a University, so I moved from undergraduate teaching, to masters, to now be the programme leader of the Doctor of health Science. I delight in working with students from across all the health disciplines. I have a passion for research that directly impacts practice and weaves work and study into a coherent whole. 

Teaching Areas:

I teach the paper Practice and Philosophies in the Doctor of Health Science and supervise doctoral theses.

Research Areas:

  • Hermeneutic phenomenology
  • Midwifery

Research Summary:

Hermeneutic phenomenology seeks to shed light on what it means to be human. My research thus covers a very wide range of topics, drawn by whatever interest comes my way.

Current Research Projects:

I have recently done a collaborative study at Counties Manukau Health asking “Ko Awatea (their learning and development centre): How does it make a difference?”
I am working with Julia Hennessy on exploring the nature of the relationship mental health support workers have with their clients. There seems to be a human to human connectedness that is ‘more’ than the professional relationship expects.
I am writing with Susan Crowther from her rural maternity study.
I have a paper in press written with Steve White called Methods of practice: Listening to the story, to be published in the Journal of Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 


Crowther, S. Ironside, P. Spence, D and Smythe, E. (2016) Crafting Stories in Hermeneutic Phenomenology Research: A Methodological Device”, in Qualitative Health research DOI: 10.1177/1049732316656161
Adelowo, A., Smythe, L., Nakid, C. (2016). Deciding to migrate: Stories of African immigrant women living in New Zealand Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work 28(1), 52–59.S
Smythe E, Hunter M, Gunn J, Crowther S, Couper JM, Wilson S, Payne D. (2016).  Midwifing the notion of a ‘good’ birth: a philosophical analysis. Midwifery 2016, 37:25-31. http://dx.
Young, C. M., Smythe, L., & Couper, J. M. (2015). Burnout: Lessons from the lived experience of case loading midwives. International Journal of Childbirth, 5(3), 154-165. Retrieved from
Crowther, S., Smythe, E., & Spence, D. (2015). Kairos time at the moment of birth [Article]. Midwifery, 31, 451-457. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2014.11.005
Austin, D., Smythe, E., & Jull, A. (2014). "Midwives' wellbeing following adverse events - what does the research indicate?" New Zealand College of Midwives Journal 50: 19-23.
McGregor, D. & Smythe, L. (2014). When the midwife-woman partnership breaks down – principles for ending the relationship, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 49: 11-16.
Crowther S, Smythe L, Spence D (2014). Mood and birth experience, Women and Birth 27(1):21-25
Crowther, S., Smythe, L., & Spence, D. (2014a). The joy at birth: An interpretive hermeneutic literature review. Midwifery, 30(4), e157-e165. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2014.01.004
Donald H, Smythe E, McAra-Couper J (2014). Creating a better work life balance. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal 49:5-10
Wright-St Clair V.A., Grant B.C., & Smythe, E.A. (2014). Narratives in research: Story as 'showing' the eminently ordinary experience of ageing, Australasian Journal on Ageing 33(2):132-135 2014
Smythe EA, Payne DA, Wilson S, Paddy A, Heard K (2014). Revealing tact within postnatal care, Qualitative Health Research,  24(2) 163–171 DOI: 10.1177/1049732313519704
Gilkison, A., Giddings, L. S., & Smythe, L. (2013). The shaping of midwifery education in Aotearoa, New Zealand. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 47, 18-23. doi:
Crowther, S., Smythe, E., Spence, D.  (2014). "The joy at birth: An interpretive hermeneutic literature review." Midwifery, 30(4): e157-e165.
d'Entremont M, Smythe L, McAra-Couper J (2014). The sounds of silence - A hermeneutic interpretation of childbirth post excision, Health Care for Women International, 35(3):300-319 2014
Reed,K., Hocking, C. & Smythe, E. (2013). The meaning of occupation: Historical and contemporary connections between health and occuptation, New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60 (1), 38–44.
Shilbury, D., Ferkins, L., & Smythe, L. Sport governance encounters: Insights from lived experiences. Sport Management Review(0). doi:
Smythe, L., Payne, D., Wilson, S., & Wynyard, S. (2014). Providing a safe space for birth in Warkworth, New Zealand. In R. C. White (Ed.), Global case studies in Materanl and Child Health (pp. 187-208). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Sutton, D. J., Hocking, C. S., & Smythe, L. A. (2012). A phenomenological study of occupational engagement in recovery from mental illness. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(3), 142-150. doi:10.2182/cjot.2012.79.3.3
Smythe, E. & Spence, D. (2012). Re-Viewing Literature in Hermeneutic Research, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 11(1), 12-25.
Giles, D., Smythe, E., & Spence, D. (2012). Exploring relationships in education: A phenomenological inquiry. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 52(2), 214-236. Retrieved from;dn=816374611474865;res=IELHSS
McAra-Couper, J., Jones, M., & Smythe, L. (2012). Caesarean-section, my body, my choice: The construction of informed choice in relation to intervention in childbirth. Feminism & Psychology, 22(1), 81-97. doi:10.1177/0959353511424369
Smythe, E., Larmer, P. J., & McNair, P. J. (2012). Insights from a physiotherapist's lived experience of osteoarthritis. Physiotherapy Theory Practice, 28(8), 604-616. doi:10.3109/09593985.2011.654320
Ansell Irving, L., McAra-Couper, J., & Smythe, E. (2012). Shoulder dystocia: A qualitative exploration of what works. Midwifery, 28(4), E461-E468. doi:10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.007
Smythe, E. A., Payne, D., Wilson, S., & Wynyard, S. (2013). The dwelling space of postnatal care. Women and Birth, 26, 110-113. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2012.05.001
Smythe, L. (2012). Discerning which qualitative approach fits best, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 46, 5-12.
Smythe, E., & Norton, A. (2011). Leadership: Wisdom in Action. The Idon-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, 11(1), 1-11.
Rossouw, G., Smythe, E., & P, G. (2011). Therapists' experience of working with suicidal clients. The Indo-Pacific journal of Phenomenology, 11(1), 1-12.
Smith, A., & Smythe, L. (2011). Insights into the experience of oral health therapy students on clinical placement. Jouranl of Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association, 7(2), 17-21.
Clark, E., & Smythe, L. (2011). The effects of childhood sexual abuse on labour and birthing: an exploration to assist midwives. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 45, 21-24.
Wright-St Clair, V., Kerse, N. & Smythe, E. (2011). Doing everyday occupations both conceals and reveals the phenomenon of being aged, Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58, 88-94.
Larmer, P.J, McNair, P.J., Smythe, L. & Williams, M. (2011). Ankle sprains: patient perceptions of  function and performance of physical tasks. A mixed methods approach. Disability and Rehabilitation
Fleck, K, Smythe, E. & Hitchen, J. (2011) Hermeneutics of Self as a research approach, Journal of Qualitative Methods, 10 (1) 14-29.
Reed, K., Hocking, C. & Smythe, E. (2010). The interconnected meanings of occupation: The call, Being-with, Possibilities, Journal of Occupational Science, 17 (3) 140-149.
Smythe, E. (2010). Safety is an interpretive act: A hermeneutic analysis of care in childbirth, International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47 (12) 1474-1482.
Ferguson, L., Smythe, L., & McAra-Couper, J. (2010). Being a delivery suite co-ordinator. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 42, 7-11.
McAra Couper, J., Jones, M. & Smythe, E. (2010). Rising rates of intervention in childbirth, British Journal of Midwifery, 18 (3), 160-168.
Smythe, L., Payne, D., Wilson, S., & Wynyard, S. (2009). Warkworth birthing centre: exemplifying the future. New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 41, 7-11.
Zinsli, G. & Smythe, E. (2009). International humanitarian nursing work: facing difference and embracing sameness, Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 20 (2) 234-241.
Smythe, E., MacCulloch, T. & Charmley, R. (2009). Professional supervision; Trusting the wisdom that ‘comes’, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 37 (1) 17-25.
Spence, D. & Smythe, E. (2008). Feeling like a nurse, Re-calling the spirit of nursing, Journal of Holistic Nursing, 26 (4) 243-252.
Smythe, L. (2008). Recollecting and ‘thinking’ the story of New Zealand’s postgraduate nursing scholarship development, Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 24(3), 27-40.
Mooney, S., Smythe, L., & Jones, M. (2008). The tensions of the modern-day clinical educator in physiotherapy: A scholarly review through a critical theory lens, New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 36 (2).
Smythe, E., Ironside, P., Sims, S., Swenson, M. & Spence, D. (2008). Doing Heideggerian hermeneutic research: A discussion paper, International Journal of Nursing Studies, 45, 1389-1397
Smythe, L & Young, C. (2008). Yes, professional supervision makes a difference, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 39, 13-15.
Smythe, L. (2007).  A hermeneutical analysis of the rise of scholarship in midwifery, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 37, 20-26.
Spence, D. & Smythe, L. (2007). Courage as integral to nursing practice. Nursing Praxis.
Smythe, E. Robinson, B. & Scrimgeour, F. (2007) Transformational development: hermeneutic understandings from ‘being there’, African and Asian Studies 6, 495-509.
Smythe, L. & Giddings, L. (2007). From experience to definition: Addressing the question ‘What is qualitative research?’ Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 23 (1) 37-57.
Smythe, L. (2007). Yes, we are prejudiced, Community Development Journal, 42, 400-402.
Payne, J. & Smythe, L. (2007). Young and Pregnant, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 36, 20-24.
Smythe, E. & Norton, A. (2007). Thinking as leadership / leadership as thinking, Leadership 3 (1), pp.65-90.
Dickinson, A., Smythe, E., & Spence, D. (2006). Within the web: the family-practitioner relationship in the context of chronic childhood illness, Journal of Child Health Care, pp 309-325.
Diekelmann, N. & Smythe, E. (2004). Covering content and the additive curriculum: How can I use my time with students to best help them learn what they need to know? Journal of nursing education, 43 (8) 341-344.
Smythe, E. (2004). Thinking, Nurse education today, 24, 326-332.
Henare, D., Hocking, C., & Smythe, L. (2003). Chronic pain: gaining understanding through the use of art, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66 (11) 511-518.
Smythe, E. (2003). Preserving ‘thinking’ in the thesis experience. Focus on Health Professional Education: A multi-disciplinary Journal, 5 (1), 54-65.
Smythe, E. (2003). Uncovering the meaning of ‘being safe’ in practice. Contemporary Nurse, 14 (2) 196-204.
Paddy, A., Wright-St. Clair, Smythe, L. (2002). Aspects of the relationship following face-to-face encounters in occupational therapy practice. New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 49 (2), 14-20.
Smythe, E. (2001). From different horizons: childbirth, tradition and politics, New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 25, 34-37.
Smythe, E. (2001). The meaning of ‘being responsible’ for safe care in childbirth. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 17 (1) 34-41.
Smythe, L. (2000). Being safe in childbirth –what does it mean? The New Zealand College of Midwives Journal, 22, 19-21.
Smythe, L. (2000). Making sense of qualitative research. Kaitiaki, Nursing New Zealand, June, 16-18.
Smythe, E. (1997). A personal philosophy of assessment informed by midwifery, hermeneutics and gardening, Connexions, A Journal for Teachers of Adults, 46, 3-10.
Smythe, E. (1996). Phenomenology: A research approach for midwifery. NZ College of Midwives Journal, April, 16-19.
Smythe, E. (1993). The teacher as midwife: a New Zealand Narrative. Journal of Nursing Education, 32 (8).
Smythe, E. (1987). The poet as our mentor. Nursing Praxis. 2(2) March.


VC Doctoral supervision award 2014