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A day in the life of a student midwife

Have you ever wondered what a typical day on a maternity ward is like? Final-year student midwife, Cydney, kept a diary of one shift on her post-natal placement.

Cydney, student midwife

07:20 Ten minutes early to handover to ensure I get a seat while nursing my first (and probably last) hot drink of the day as I eagerly anticipate today’s workload. 

07:30 Allocated the care of a first-time breastfeeding mother, a lady with a suspected case of sepsis following a caesarean section, and a postnatal readmission with a postpartum cardiomyopathy following a previously diagnosed deviation of a supraventricular tachycardia (sounds German huh?!) It’s said that midwives are the specialists of normality…ha! Specialists in everyone and everything it seems!

09:00 Said hello and introduced myself to my caseload of women and let them know I’ll be caring for them for the day. Performed thorough postnatal checks on all of them and their babies, played waitress for those unable to get out of bed and documented every last little bit of care before casting it under the eyes of my already-too-busy mentor to countersign my entries. 

11:00 The lady with the complex cardiac issue deteriorates rapidly throughout the morning, doctors frantic, and midwives liaising with Critical Care Unit (CCU) while I stand back feeling utterly helpless. Luckily, if in doubt, a hand hold and a reassuring smile goes a long way to help someone feel better. 

11:30 Transferred the unwell woman out of the warmth of maternity into the unknown and a very clinical-feeling CCU, holding her hand all the way. Stressful morning so far, however, with her consent, a very generous cardiologist allowed me to watch a cardioversion procedure. Every day really is a school day! 

12:00 Back on the postnatal ward, straight to the sacred linen cupboard for a one minute breather. It can’t just be me that does this surely?

13:30 Breastfeeding support with the lady who gave birth this morning. She is beside herself with worry as baby hasn’t fed in the six hours since birth. She’s convinced herself she has no colostrum and is currently dripping tears onto baby’s head. Not a good start. 

14:10 After strong words of encouragement and reassurance, three different breastfeeding positions, a hands-off approach and a glisten of colostrum, the baby has latched successfully. Hallelujah! She wells up again, this time with relief. I feel like I could cry with her through relief too, but also because my back is in agony from leaning over her bed for the last 40 minutes.  For a happy mother and baby, it was worth the backache. 

14:30 After a beautiful twenty-minute breastfeed, baby is settled and I can now do the NIPE (Newborn and Infant Physical Examination). After explaining to the parents how we check the baby, when we check the baby, why we check the baby and I then, well, check the baby!  The parents stand and watch in awe at their precious little baby, and in turn, I stand and watch them going from adults to parents and creating their own little family unit and think about how privileged I am to be a part of it. 

Baby in arms of student midwife

15:00 Documentation, documentation, documentation. Woman in room two sneezes? DOCUMENT IT. (And then get it countersigned by my mentor…)

15:30 60 precious minutes, a.k.a lunchtime! Suspicious stain on my uniform: Dried blood? Meconium? Vernix? Colostrum? The list continues and suddenly my stir fry doesn’t look quite so appealing… 

15:50 Staff room door opens. There’s a doctor on the phone wanting to speak to whoever is looking after the lady in room four who has sepsis. Ah, that’ll be me then (*puts down fork*). 

16:30 Attempt to take blood from the unwell lady. First vial down no problems but then hit a valve in the vein. Readjust needle, needle comes out of vein along with a stream of blood, all down my arm, the lady’s arm and her lovely Disney pyjama bottoms. Apologise profusely and make a feeble attempt on lightening the situation: “At least neither of us are squeamish, eh?” 

17:30 I make a tea round for everyone on shift, with scrap bits of paper underneath to distinguish whose mug is whose. As I walk in with the tray, the midwives look like they want to drop to their knees with happiness. Brownie points for me. 

18:00 Break time. Check my phone and receive a text from my mom. Whoops, I’d forgotten I had a mom! I haven’t seen her in days; late night finishes and early morning starts do not equal a good social life. 

19:00 Frenzied rush to ensure everything is done ready for handover – no-one likes to come onto shift to a mess. After discharging one woman home, she waves goodbye with her bundle of joy tucked up in a car seat in one arm, and a thank you card and a hug of appreciation in the other. All of a sudden the chaos of the day and the 14,000 steps all seems so worth it. 

20:00 One lady handed over and two others lost over the course of the shift, one to CCU and one to her nice warm home. Now for a walk to my car in the dark. On-site parking is overrated anyway, right? 

20:30 Driving home, windows open to make sure I stay awake. Sudden moment of panic: did I hand over my lady’s blood results? (*phones ward to check*) 

21:00 Finally home, legs aching, 14,000 steps down, exhausted and hungry but feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to do the job I love so dearly. 

22:00 Packet noodles for dinner (for convenience and speed, NOT taste), showered and in bed to dream about CTGS, buzzers going off and emergency call bells, ready to do it all again in another nine hours’ time...

mother and baby

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