Midwifery and me: life in placement

Jennifer Pountain - Midwifery studentMy name is Jennifer and I’m a second-year student midwife studying the BMidwif Midwifery course at The University of Manchester. I am what they call a ‘mature’ student! I have a keen interest in politics and social reform after previously studying social sciences, philosophical and sociological perspectives.

I always wanted to work in the public health sector, and I have an interest in women’s health and family services. After having my three children, I returned to study and gained my place on the course in 2015. I particularly enjoy placements, and want to tell you what it’s like to go on placement on the course.

What are midwifery placements like?

The Midwifery course consists of 50% practice and 50% theory, so we spend a lot of the course in practice within the trusts around the Greater Manchester area. I am currently placed at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, having already completed 2016 at UHSM – University Hospital South Manchester or Wythenshawe hospital to most!

Placement gives you great learning experiences and opportunities to develop midwifery skills. Student midwives rotate round all sectors of midwifery care, so we get to experience a variety of aspects of care.

These mainly consist of:

  • postnatal care (typically on a postnatal in-patient ward and in the community);
  • antenatal care (where you are placed in an antenatal clinic or antenatal ward, in the hospital or in the community clinics);
  • intrapartum care (delivery suite and birth centres).

Within each placement, students are assigned a mentor midwife to shadow. We must spend at least 40% of our placement time with the mentor. The knowledge and expertise you can learn from a mentor is invaluable. The mentors sign off skills that you acquire, and assess and grade practice of each midwifery element.

Community placements consist of a mixture of all three components of midwifery care. A typical day includes antenatal clinic at the local medical centre and postnatal visits to women and their babies following delivery.  Community midwives also attend home births, as well as specialised clinics such as teenage pregnancy clinics and safeguarding – meeting and liaising with other healthcare professionals involved in the woman’s care.

Community encompasses much of the midwifery continuum, and every day is different to the next. There is an enormous satisfaction in delivering continuity to the women we care for, and community midwifery provides the opportunity to deliver this notion.

Placements on postnatal wards give you the opportunity to expand on postpartum skills, including assessment of the neonate and women post-delivery. Infant feeding is a huge part of the care and support delivered by the midwife postpartum. Here, you get to support women to breastfeed or discuss feeding options, and it is hugely rewarding to know you have supported the woman to the best of your ability.

Delivery suite and low risk birth centres are the setting where you develop intrapartum skills – assessing labour, understanding the stages of labour and supporting the woman throughout. Delivery suite is a unit for high risk women who are either under consultant care or shared care.

Sometimes, a woman may initially be assessed as low risk and suitable for midwifery-led care on admission to the birth centre, but complications can arise or the woman may require specialised care, which would mean transfer to delivery suite. Here, we can monitor maternal and foetal wellbeing much more closely, and the obstetricians and anaesthetists are on call for any eventuality.

Why I love being on placement

Placement can bring you highs and some rare lows. What I have learnt over the past 17 months is the value of peer support. My fellow colleagues, mentors and lecturers are so very supportive. It is important to seek advice and support if any issues do arise in placement.

Each NHS trust also supplies additional support to students through the PEFs – practice education facilitators. This role provides support to the student and if there are problems that need addressing, the PEF team are there to provide guidance.

All in all, I absolutely adore placement! Yes, it can be tough – working within the current NHS climate can bring its challenges, but the women, the mentors, the midwives and the staff all make it for me.

I love being a student midwife and I am very proud of my achievements so far.

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