Day in the Life of a Student Midwife

There are so many student's out there at the moment who are excited to study Midwifery come September. Whilst, no one knows the true effect the coronavirus will have on the start dates, what is true, is that all the Offer Holder Days and Open Days are currently cancelled. I have seen lots of questions going around asking for a typical timetable for a midwifery student so I thought I would take the liberty to share my impression of the Midwifery Course at the University of Nottingham!

The Course
As a third year Midwifery student, there is a huge range of individuals on the course. Some students come straight from A Levels, a handful are graduates from previous degrees and others are mature students who have had careers beforehand. I personally came in as a mature student (just!) after doing another degree previously at University College London. I am also a January intake cohort, which is a much smaller cohort than most courses, therefore it does obviously vary to some other’s experience and as such, it has it’s positives and negatives. I love being a part of a smaller cohort; there is currently just 24 students in my classes, we all know each other fairly well and everybody knows everybody. It also means that many of our taught sessions are in the form of lectures, but really feel more like seminars. On the other hand, sometimes discussions can become very opinionated and restrictive as bigger personalities dominate.

Our course is very well designed in the fact that we have separated theory and placement blocks. Usually, we have six to eight weeks theory, followed by a similar length placement and that pattern continues throughout the three year course. I personally find this works great because it means we can truly focus on each aspect of the course. Unlike other Midwifery courses, our assessments are completed in the theory blocks and therefore in placement we can concentrate on our clinical skills and improving our practice.

In Theory
A normal week in theory will usually involve having two to three days of in-person teaching. This usually starts at 10:00 and then finishes at 16:00, with an hour lunch break somewhere between 12:00 and 14:00. To finish the day, we usually have small independent work to complete. During assessment times, this can be group work, for example during our debate assessments, or essay writing time.

Despite not having contact hours during the other days, we still have timetabled learning sessions. Most of these are made up by self-directed learning packages pre-organised. These are structured sessions which come with a Word Document to fill in as you work your way through activities. Whilst they come with a recommended time frame, you can somewhat make the packages work for you. If there is something you find interesting and think will be beneficial, you can further develop your knowledge on that and spend more time reading around the topic. Likewise, the converse is also true if you already know the topic or you do not find it very insightful.

These packages then in turn feed into the taught sessions. Sometimes we have “Feedback from Blended Learning”, however with student feedback, I think these sessions are now more useful. In the past they used to be pretty repetitive of the self-directed packages because students would complete them to different standards, whereas now, students are encouraged to ask for which areas they would further like to discuss, preventing the overlap.

As the President of the Nursing and Midwifery Association, I would usually also have some sort of commitment to do each week (whilst responding to emails and having meetings constantly), such as a social, a welfare event, Knit and Knatter or NMA Netball. But I am also the UoN Archery Welfare Officer and with six training sessions a week, it is great to be able to escape the field somewhat. These fit in really well around my schedule because the sessions are all between 7-10.30pm, which can make me super tired but I can pretty much always attend a few a week.

In Placement
During placement blocks, we have to complete 37.5 hours of placement a week. We complete a range of placements throughout the year: community, labour suite and ward (postnatal and antenatal) are our core placements. In second year, we also complete our non-midwifery placements which are: neonatal, women’s health and theatres. Additionally, in second and third year we have a week of antenatal clinic. Due to the shorter hours in community we tend to do 5 days of 8 hours each and hospital shifts are usually long days or nights, starting at 07:00 to 19:30 or 19:00 to 07:30, therefore we have three shifts a week.

Hospital shifts are long! I think it is important for students to recognise this and whilst the nature of the shift depends on the workload demand and also capacity of the unit, some shifts can be incredibly draining…emotionally and physically draining. Sometimes you can go a whole shift feeling like you have not been able to sit down all day or even simply go to the toilet. One thing I think is important to remember is that, we are students. We are not included in the numbers and we do not get paid. We can take our breaks and request to do so to look after our own welfare. I know I feel guilty doing so if my mentor *sorry* supervisor is not, but at the same time, it is incredibly important not to get burnt out before event graduating.

On the days off, we still have some aspects of written practice work to do. We have to do a number of reflections on our experiences, with references and relating to clinical guidelines, as well as receive women’s feedback and complete breastfeeding observations. On top of this, we have to meet European Union Requirements which involves completing a specific number of different tasks and clinical skills.

Despite the demanding nature of placement and of everything that comes with it, the past two years have been so rewarding and truly inspiring. I am so lucky to love what I do and to get to help family’s transition to parenthood. It is such an honour to be a part of the experience and I will never take that for granted. I am always thankful and grateful to have the opportunity to empower and advocate for women, but honestly, watching powerful women do tremendous tasks every single day is what keeps me going. Midwifery means “with woman” and to me, that is everything.