Life as a first-year student
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably really curious and want nothing more than to know about what students and midwives get up to on a daily basis. Well luckily enough, I’ve just finished my whole first year as a student midwife and I’m feeling very reflective, so I’d love to share my first-year experiences with anyone who’s willing to listen!
Well, what a year this has been. Quite possibly the best year I’ve had so far (in all of my 20 years)! If someone had told me in sixth form about all of the opportunities and incredible experiences I would have while training in midwifery, I’m not sure I would have believed them. And I’ve still got two years to go! Among building my own website, publishing a magazine article and starting out in the blogging world, the degree itself has certainly provided me with so many encounters which I will remember forever, and I consistently remind myself of how lucky I am to be one of the few on the course.
I’m studying at the University of Suffolk which is situated in such a beautiful location, right on the waterfront and in the centre of Ipswich. While the university isn’t one of the most well-known, I honestly can’t fault it or the wonderful midwifery team. The cohort size is smaller than most other universities which allows for closer friendships, more scope to ask for clarification in lectures and more individualised interaction with personal tutors. The Midwifery Society alongside the midwifery lecturers are always seeking out wonderful opportunities for us, for example the recent Normal Birth Conference. This was such a great day to be a part of; great speakers, great stalls to look at and to spend a bit of money on (which is a bit non-existent for me at the moment while I wait for my student loan!) as well as being reignited with a great passion for midwifery.
So now you know where I study, I guess I should get to the point of this post and tell you all about my first year, and the best way I can think to do that would be chronologically!
The course began in February 2018 and blimey, I didn’t know what to expect. I was frightened, nervous, eager, buzzing, apprehensive and excited all at once. However, everyone soon settled in and the months seemed to fly by straight away. We started with a long 10 week block of theory, focussing on normal aspects of midwifery, practising skills and gaining all of that essential anatomy and physiology knowledge. It became apparent that ‘pre-reading’ was a thing, something I hadn’t been accustomed to yet! The theory can get a bit heavy so having had read up a bit about the topics before the lectures really helped, as well as consolidating the information the night after a lecture too. I soon found that my evenings consisted of sitting at my study desk after uni.
Next came 4 weeks on my first placement…. Now THAT was scary. I spent four weeks on the Midwife-led Birthing Unit and after having absolutely no clinical experience, it’s safe to say I was terrified! But it didn’t take me long to realise I was worried over nothing; my mentor was incredible, other staff members welcomed me as soon as I stepped onto the ward and I found that I could simply replicate the skills we had practiced at uni with great support. This placement will always be one to remember, as I witnessed 5 beautiful births, cared for numerous women in labour, helped women and their babies postnatally and met some wonderful midwives.
So then came the Community placement where I worked alongside two fabulous midwives for 8 weeks. My first day on community was a very special day and I bet you can figure out why. I had my first ‘hands-on’ birth! We were called to a labouring woman at home and spent the day with her and her family, however due to complications they were transferred to hospital where I continued the care (an aspect becoming increasingly important with the Better Births movement). It was such an inspiring moment to see the woman birth her baby and facilitate the birth where I could. Then my second day in community was an equally exciting day as I attended a birth in the back of an ambulance! You’ll be pleased to know that the rest of my community placement soon settled down, which enabled me to assist with antenatal clinics and postnatal checks of the mother and baby. I performed my first venepuncture (although I’m not sure how because my hands were shaking a LOT), mastered manual blood pressure, dipped a lot of urines, practised palpating some pregnant tummies, checked the health of the woman and baby following the birth, weighed babies postnatally and practised the Newborn Blood Spot Test. I also have extraordinary admiration and gratitude to the family who I had the privilege of caseloading through the pregnancy, birth and postnatal period while I was in the community, as well as the four other families I cared for continually throughout the year.
After another few weeks at uni and shorter placements on the gynaecology ward and with the health visiting team, I began my final long placement on the Labour Ward. Here is where the exciting statistics can be told; I observed more births, had 12 more ‘hands-on’ birth experiences, witnessed 5 caesarean sections including one set of twins, saw 5 instrumental births, 1 undiagnosed breech birth, and much, much more. Again I worked under the supervision of such fantastic midwives and I consider myself increasingly fortunate to have had such great opportunities.
To finish my first year was Assessment Week, where we all submitted 3 reflective essays, 2 normal essays, 1 poster, 1 practice document, we had to perform 1 presentation and complete 1 oral exam – a nice way to finish off right?! But I am now here, entering my second year and typing up this blog post, so I guess I made it through alive!
And now you know all about my year. While I’ve kept this post very positive it’s important to know that I still have days where I cry, where I have to sleep for hours and hours to recover from shifts and where I often sit staring at my laptop with a very blank face because I just don’t know where to start. It is not easy, but to me, every minute is worth it.
There was so much to learn this year and one thing I’d like to promote is that midwifery is not just about catching babies; we enter women’s’ lives from just a few weeks into the pregnancy, maintaining their care, promoting their health and advocating their wishes right up until two weeks after the birth, and it has been absolutely incredible to begin practising all aspects of midwifery care through this year. Fingers crossed I’ve answered everything you want to know about life as a first-year midwifery student but if you have any questions, just let me know!