Written by Tabby
BSc (Hons) Midwifery
The student midwife is a strange species to observe around the university and even stranger in placement. They tend to be seen carrying odd items that they call the tools of the trade. As a student midwife we are expected to have our own bag of tools. So, let’s take a look and see what’s inside.
One of the most iconic tools of a midwife is the Pinard Stethoscope, this funnel shaped bit of kit can be made from plastic, wood or metal and is used to auscultate the fetal heart, in other words to listen to baby’s heartbeat whilst in the womb. The Pinard was first invented in 1895 but is still used every day in midwifery practice. It is so important that in the 1st year you must demonstrate that you are able to utilise a pinard during one of the practice assessments.
As a child I owned several dollies and usually played make believe feeding them with bottles and changing their tiny outfits. As a student midwife we must delve back into our childhood to dollies, make believe and role play! However… we have replaced bottles with breasts! As a BFI (Baby Friendly Initiative) recognised university part of our role is to support breastfeeding and to do this we demonstrate the principles of effective position and attachment with dollies and knitted breasts.
Yes it does feel a bit mad the first few times you use them in practice and its truly terrifying during the breastfeeding assessment. However, it really words to reinforce a hands off approach to breast feeding support and our mummy’s really appreciate our funny tools once they see how to help their baby’s to feed.
One of the strangest things about midwifery training is performing your first internal examination. In the skills laboratory we get a chance to play around with a plastic model which houses several different sized plastic donuts. The idea is that this helps you to figure out what a dilated cervix feels like. Well in reality the only way to learn how to recognise the different stages of cervical dilation is to practice. This is where the pocket dilation chart comes in handy, the paper flip chart contains several different sized holes for you to feel through and at the back is a mould of a fetal skull to help with figuring out what direction baby is facing, I still can’t do it but that’s one of the other skills that comes with time…… or so I am led to believe.
Have you ever tried to explain the difference between a labouring contraction and a Braxton Hicks contraction?
Well as a student midwife you will do this….. a lot! To make it easier one clever midwife came up with a visual representation that uses a balloon and a ping-pong ball. My advice to any midwife (student or qualified) is, check out this video and never go to work with out a balloon and a ping-pong ball!
Along with these weird and wonderful tools don’t forget super comfy (and often not so stylish) shoes, lots of tiny note pads a fob watch and a stethoscope.
Midwives also need a good moisturiser to counteract all the hand washing and alcohol gel they use in placement and finally 100’s of black pens, those things go missing like socks in the laundry!
Finally fill any spare space in the bag with snacks.
So now if you see a student walking around campus with a dolly sticking out of her bag you will know that she’s probably a student midwife and possibly slightly crazy.