For most university students your Summer holidays probably started back at beginning of June, maybe you’ve been on a few holidays or you’re just lounging around  at your parents house enjoying the freedom Well spare a thought for student midwives who are still working super hard on full time placements and trying to revise for their end of year exams. Ailish is back and she’s almost finished her second year of training. Here she shares her thoughts on the past year and how she’s developing her knowledge and skills into midwifery practice.

“I am finally at the end of my second year as a student midwife! It’s been a tough one, I’m not gonna lie. I look back on my previous post about life as a first year and wonder what the hell I had to stress about. Who did I think I was?! I envy first year me. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a walk in the park. The unknown was terrifying, the life juggling was challenging and the workload was demanding.

But then second year came and smacked me in the face.

It’s been full of ups and downs. My grandad died during the summer holidays and on my first day back on placement as a second year I was sobbing on my mentor and using my sleeve as a tissue. Deffo not the triumphant return I had envisaged!

I wasn’t going to mention it but then Clemmie (mentor, midwife, mum and blogger extraordinaire) posted this ( on her Facebook and I thought why not. I’ve always been a tad anxious but this year it all went a bit haywire. I don’t know what it was – grief maybe. But suddenly it was all I could think of – I worried about getting off the bus, where I would sit in lecture, if my four year old’s temperature was really smallpox masquerading as a cold. Most of all, I suddenly felt the responsibility of being a midwife very keenly.  The fear and doubt was overwhelming and there were points where I seriously considered leaving the course. But I didn’t! I got support, dropkicked that anxiety in the balls and am now technically a third year. So let’s do a breakdown:

First term – I’m pretty sure everyone had learnt their lesson the year before and did not attempt to partake in any Fresher’s activities this time around. Second year theme was medical complexities and emergencies. Alongside midwifery placements we were also to spend time on theatre and gynae – a minimum of 90 hours on each is required to gain qualification. When you begin studying midwifery, there is a thing which becomes as precious as your first born. Much like with a baby, you will spend hours gazing at it. You will cradle it, ensuring it can’t come to any harm. It will overwhelm you, excite you, frustrate you – and some days you just will not have a clue. I am of course talking about the Midwifery Practice Document. The MPD. This document includes a record of every woman you’ve cared for, every baby you’ve delivered, and every hour you’ve worked. It also contains a hefty set of skills which you need to have signed off each year to continue on the course.

Hey man, no sweat – I did this before, I can do it again! But wait… remember how you have 180 hours less time to do it this year because of theatre and gynae? Oh. Oh yea. Shit.

Second term –. Lectures and lab time were interesting and alarming in equal measures. Continuity projects started – this is essentially where as a student you caseload your own women and write a reflective portfolio on the experience. It’s a really cool opportunity to connect with women and build confidence as an independent practitioner. Alongside this, medical complexities gave insight in to caring for high risk women, whilst emergencies allowed us to simulate crisis situations. As terrifying as it was, it helped massively in placement to put together why we do the things we do. As a first year, it felt more about knowing HOW to do things – how to take a blood pressure, how to document, how to palpate. Whereas in second year it was about merging the how with the WHY. Why do I need to know if a woman’s BP is steadily rising antenatally? Pre-eclampsia. Why does documentation need to be accurate and contemporaneous? Legality and continuity. Why is it important to palpate? To assess growth, lie, presentation and plan ahead for labour care.

Things started to merge and it felt like everything was clicking a bit more in to place. There were still shifts where I cried, but there were more where I actually felt like “I can do this! I could probably do this as a real, money paying job and not mess it up!”

Final term – No I couldn’t, no no no no. OSCE stress set in. OSCEs basically involve standing in front of two expressionless examiners and pretending you know how to handle a postpartum haemorrhage – they are SCARY. It is like a French oral exam with a tiny tears doll you could potentially kill. I have simulated neonatal resuscitation, vaginal breech birth and shoulder dystocia on my boyfriend, aunty and four year old. I have pretended my nanny has gestational diabetes and my mum has sepsis. Things got intense. BUT…whilst mentally flogging myself for not choosing an easier career I have simultaneously had the most amazing moments of my life. I have delivered babies. I have connected with women and families. I have helped dads change their son’s first nappy. I have supported mums to breastfeed their daughter for the first time. I have lived through four long shifts in a row!!!

I’ve survived second year. I’m on my summer holidays right now and I have spent the first 5 days of it playing in the park, watching Pixar movies, baking and building forts with my kid. I’ve worked 740 hours, signed off thirty skills, delivered twenty two babies, passed three exams, wrote two essays, and doubted myself countless times. I cannot wait to start my final year.”