To give you an insight into what it's really like, read Danielle’s lowdown on her placement experience.
Danielle's story: A Midwifery student on placement
Long, exciting, challenging, interesting and exhausting - these are just a few words that could be used to describe a day on placement for the student midwife. A word that could never be used is ‘boring’; each day brings the unique stories and circumstances of a diverse group of women and babies. You could be caring for a woman having her fourth baby, uneventful pregnancy, all previous normal deliveries and spontaneous labour, or a woman having her first baby with gestational diabetes who developed high blood pressure and was delivered at 37 weeks via emergency caesarean section. Perhaps you have a booking appointment with a woman that speaks no English or a postnatal home visit to a baby with suspected jaundice.
Under supervision, students are involved in every aspect of day to day care and practice profiles outline a number of proficiencies that require a mentor to sign off as competent. Taking manual blood pressure, blood samples and assessment of birth trauma are just a few of the named skills that are to be learnt on placement as a student midwife.
The nature of midwifery means that with consent, we get up close and personal with the women in our care. For example, during the antenatal period, it is routine to examine the pregnant abdomen to determine baby’s position and listen to the heart rate using various equipment. On delivery suite you will be required to participate in vaginal examination and the postnatal period will include giving lots of breastfeeding support, checking wounds and emptying catheters.
Then there are the babies. Other ways in which student midwives participate in assessing baby’s wellbeing in the antenatal or childbirth period is the use of equipment to obtain a trace of the baby’s heart which can determine any deviations from the norm. Student midwives also accompany women to scans and monitor foetal growth by taking measurements of the mother’s abdomen. Under supervision, students get hands on experience of delivering a baby and undertaking the newborn initial examination which involves a head to toe assessment of baby’s wellbeing soon after birth. This monitoring of wellbeing continues into the postnatal period where student midwives will participate in weighing babies, being vigilant to common deviations such as jaundice and advising new mothers about feeding and other health education i.e. cord care.
During a day on placement, student midwives will participate in the safe preparation and administering of medications to both mother and baby including those given via injection. There are very few limitations to the role but do include controlled drugs and operating pumps used to administer medication through the vein, however, learning can still take place through observation. Once training has been provided, students are also able to monitor the blood sugars of mother and baby which is a common procedure on the postnatal wards. Students are expected to enhance their communications skills during placement and are required to communicate clearly and effectively verbally, electronically and via written documentation. Dialogue within the multidisciplinary team is required on a daily basis whether beeping a porter to collect bloods, taking a plan of care from a doctor following a ward round or neonatologist following review or handing over care to colleagues at change of shift.