Midwifery Year Three: Review

As promised, I am sharing my experience of being a third and final year student midwife in three separate posts once again. I will be doing what I did in previous years, and splitting the post into an overview, assessments and placements. 

I'm starting with a full review of the year and I think it's defintely a strange one, given everything that has been going on. It's hard to believe that the year started off so normally. Back in January, we never would have expected the year to take the path that it had, and although I don't want this post to focus on the pandemic, it's played a huge part of the course and the changes that have been made have impacted on the way in which we have learnt. On that note, I think it's important to mention that although the content remains the same, my experience may not be the experience you should expect because, hopefully, normality will resume and in person learning will be back. 

As I've discussed before, the University of Nottingham has somewhat of a cycling theoretical teaching module, where concepts and assessment methods are repeated each year and theory is built upon from previous teaching. The first module we did this year was on The Politics of Maternity Care. From the onset, most of us didn't understand why this module was being taught but by the end, it made complete sense. Midwifery is in a large part a health and social policy matter. So many of the problems maternity care faces is on a governmental scale, both in terms of polices and most fundamentally, funding. It's also important to recognise the history of the field and the huge milestones that have been achieved in order to get where it is right now. 

This module had two assessments, which I'll talk about in the next post, but it was also broken up in the most lovely of ways. We had a Student Led Conference Day, which involved members of the cohort arranging and organising a special day for us all to celebrate being together. At the time I thought it was such a strange thing to do and had odd timing, but it is so lovely to look back on, because it's the last day we were all together. Bea and I presented our research findings for the first time publicly and we also got to hear from the lovely Milli Hill. 

We then went into placement. It was my busiest time and I had so much going on, on top of placement. I was completely exhausted and then when I returned from London, I'd developed a cough. I ended up taking my 7 day isolation period, but only missed a single shift before all students were pulled due to the pandemic. 

I made use of the 2 weeks we somewhat had off, by completing all but 1 reflection for my portfolio. I also started and finished the Fetal Monitoring e-learning package which literally took hours. The rest was a bit of a waiting game as we refreshed emails constantly, awaiting to hear what decision the university had made in regards to our teaching. By this point, I'd moved out of Nottingham and back to Wakefield, already struggling with the lack of consistent internet access and the disaster of living at home. 

Finally, the decision was made for the theory aspects of the course to be brought forward. We still had two modules left to finish and so we made a start on the next: Research Evidence for High Quality Midwifery Practice. This module continued to pull on ideas from the previous two years research modules and I personally felt like I had an advantage, as I had already decided on my topic of research and I had experience with my extracurricular research project. The theory aspect of the module I found quite confusing and I think the transition to online teaching was difficult for the staff to understand. We had a mix of pre-recorded lectures, tutorial and live lectures on Microsoft Teams. With the cohort being so diverse and having such a wide range of different commitments, the timetable was constantly changing to try and suit everyone, but it made it so confusing and in the end, I found myself picking and choosing my own schedule, as and when I required different aspects. From this perspective, I found that online learning worked really well for me as a self-motivated student, but for others that needed more guidance, they struggled. 

From one theory module, straight to another, we started our final module the day submission was due for the previous. The Professional Midwife in Contemporary Society was the last module of our undergraduate degree and sadly the poorest taught. It was split into two separate parts almost, with one based on the assessment, and another on the practicalities of being a newly qualified midwife. 
The lead of the module was newly transitioned from a very experienced member of staff, to a new one. Questions often had to be relayed between different members of staff, whilst information provided was contradictory in very extreme ways. It was also a very new topic of assessment, so whilst the method remained the same, the guidance required was not easy to understand. I found a lot of the time, we were the forgotten cohort. Sessions went from 3 a day, separated by hours, to none at all. The one extreme to another was too much and we had to beg to have any taught cohort. 

The second component was really useful. Whilst it was mostly independently self-taught, the booklet provided and pre-recorded lectures were really useful in learning about being a newly qualified midwife and applying for jobs going forward. This was all optional, additional content, but I personally made the most of every opportunity and completed the practice mock interview. I felt this part prepared me really well for both my job interviews and applications

We then had an unexpected week of practical teaching, for our The Competent Student Midwife in Practice module, after our reading week to do the assessment, despite myself and others thinking it was the start of our annual leave. Sadly, it meant I had to work whilst I was visiting my sister and her family for the one and only time of the year. I was not best pleased to be honest, especially given how the content wasn't always ready for the allocated timings and there was very little engagement from the cohort which made it tough. 

One of the days was our Practice Supervisor training day. I love that we get to be Practice Supervisors as soon as we graduate. It is somewhat scary, but I also think it's a great way to learn and grow ourselves. Plus, having experienced the struggled of getting a Practice Supervisor of my own, hopefully it will help other students going forward. Having said that, the teaching was truly awful. It was a full 7 hour day, with less than an hours break, which was mandatory on Microsoft Teams. It consisted of the lecturer talking at us whilst reading off a PowerPoint the entire time. There was very little opportunity to interact with the content, and when there was chances, the questions were so confusing, no one knew what to say. By the end of it, we were all exhausted, knackered and completely confused. We had to fill in a booklet when in practice, which again kept changing, but luckily I did complete it all, and I am now qualified! 

Another of the days, was around the Newborn Infant Physical Examination topics, which I talked more about here. I actually really enjoyed the content, but it was a shame it wasn't available when timetabled, and sadly, as it wasn't compulsory, not many students decided to complete it. 

Finally it was time for annual leave, but unlike most people on annual leave, we didn't have the luxury to enjoy and relax over our time off. We still didn't have any information on placements, we didn't have any shifts, we didn't know when we were coming back or what we would be doing. In other words, we had a rough start date but nothing was confirmed. I was fortunate, that I didn't exactly have other commitments that required prioritising, but students with children obviously needed to sort childcare, which I really felt was poor. 

In the end, we ended up having partial allocations, just two weeks before and then having to chase placements for shifts. The rest of our allocations came a few weeks later. Then it was time for almost 5 months of continuous placement with no break. 

This was another area that I got really frustrated at because we were given 18 weeks of placement, with 40 hour weeks of practice time, plus theoretical content on top of that. I could have finished in November to meet my 2300 hours required to graduate but I wasn't allowed to finish. I didn't mind that but we were given the option to have a half term week of annual leave, due to long length of continuous placement. I was told yes, but I would have to make a week up in January, which of course I didn't want to do, so I said no. Then I found out other people were allowed to take the week off, without making the time up, which was just frustrating. Once again, lack of continuity between individuals and to me, a lot of special treatment. Whereas others will literally just hit 2300 hours, I have ended up way over. 

We did have two in person sessions in clinical skills in preparation for our Neonatal Resuscitation Objective Structured Clinical Examination. The first was with half of the cohort and lasted about an hour for practice and the second was the actual exam, with one other student, and lasted about 10 minutes. 

Anyway, the final week was 2.5 shifts long, as I finished the last shift early to have my final personal tutor meeting. It ran very smoothly and I completed everything I needed to. Finally, the last Friday of our course was our mini graduation/celebration day. I was one of the students involved in organising the day and it was absolutely amazing to see everyone. We had messages from staff, messages from students, videos of good luck and congratulations, a quiz, a fuddle, a yearbook and a round circle. It was such a lovely way to end not only the year, but also the course. 

I think, despite everything with the pandemic, the biggest thing I felt that we missed out on, was case holding. If you've read my other two review posts, you'll have seen how much I loved my four caseholding families; each of them changed my career for the better. When we were pulled from placement, we were told we weren't allowed to continue or start case holding. From that perspective, I felt very lucky that I hadn't recruited anyone yet, because if I had, it would have been very difficult to stop that relationship without completing it. Another aspect that we missed out on as a cohort was our elective opportunity, but of course, we weren't allowed to see everyone and having that freedom to socialise with each other, as well as share experiences liberally too. I shared this in a little more detail and spoke about how the pandemic changed our learning here too. 

Don't forget to read my posts about the year three assessments and placements coming soon!