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This is a guest blog by current student Cecilia Bawden.

Our year at uni is split 50/50 between placement and practice. A uni week is made up of 37.5 hours of learning time, and a placement week is 37.5 hours of practice time. Each year we have to complete a minimum of 900 hours in practice, to allow us to become competent in all of the skills we need to be safe midwives. The course is mostly arranged in six week blocks, so we have six weeks of uni followed by six weeks of practice then it repeats!

A day at uni…

A normal uni day for us starts at 09.30 so we normally aim to leave the house at 0800 to leave time for me flapping about forgetting something. I take a smoothie and a coffee with me in the car, as we liftshare I can drink breakfast on the drive in! I park as close to uni as possible and pay for a ticket as we walk in.

In third year we’ve had a few practical sessions, and a lot of lectures meant to provoke thought and original ideas. Our practical sessions have covered amniotomy (breaking the waters to induce labour), stretch and sweeps, facilitating births of babies in a breech position, and our emergency skills and drills likeneonatal resuscitation or shoulder dystocia. We use a lot of manikins or models to help us get a feel for what we’re doing so that when we’re applying the theory to practice in real life it feels a bit more like muscle memory!

Some of our lectures this year have been on the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle, intrapartum CTG monitoring, and topics relating to our emergency skills assessment. The year is arranged in blocks so that our assignments are all spread out across the year, and are just after we’ve had the learning for that topic. Our lectures are two hours long, with a break after each one. After our first session I go and get coffee (in a reusable cup obviously), and take some books back to the library.

As we’re on placement in hospitals we all get access to the postgraduate libraries for our respective hospitals but the Bournemouth House library is really good for textbooks and has a much wider range!

After the second lecture of the day we break for lunch, I bring mine in with me and only need to go and microwave it in the student lounge. I use my lunch break to catch up on some admin for the midwifery society, sending payments to speakers or venues, publicising our events, and updating the other committee members.

It’s not always easy revising for assessments or doing group projects alongside placement obligations so I try to get as much done during uni blocks as I can. I’ve got a meeting arranged with the fellow winners and finalists of The Rockstar Awards this week so I’m working extra hard as I know that’ll be an evening I won’t use for studying!

At the moment I’m caseloading, so I go straight from uni (after changing into my uniform and covering up with a long coat) to the home of one of the women I am caring for to do a postnatal check. Her baby is two weeks old and absolutely gorgeous. My community mentor didn’t attend the last visit I did with her so needs to attend today to supervise me and countersign my documentation. I complete a BFI feeding assessment form for the dyad and get my mentor to sign it, and carry out the check independently while my mentor chats with the mum. Once we’re done, I drive back to the maternity unit to fill in the postnatal visits sheet and let the team know when I’ll next be visiting one of my caseload!

After that I’m done for the day, so go home and shower and make breakfast and lunch for the next day, eat supper whilst I finish making a poster for an upcoming midwifery society event. Then I read over my notes from the day’s lectures and make sure I’ve understood them, and try to find a copy of a book one of the lecturers recommended. Someone’s selling a copy on our Bournemouth Student Midwives Book swap group so I nab it, then do some work on a group project that’s due in a month or so. We have to design a product that would improve care in a health context, and I’m trying to make the CAD images of the product itself. It’s a struggle. I go to bed.

A placement day…

A standard shift at the maternity unit is 12.5 hours, starting at 0700. I wake up at 0500 so that I can lie in bed and wake myself up mentally. I get a coffee and take it back upstairs while my brain switches on.

I might read a bit of Midwives Magazine to get myself in gear but mostly at the moment I listen to podcasts (quietly!) as I’m getting ready. I try to be quick in the mornings so normally eat overnight oats I’ve made the night before so that I save time not making breakfast.

I get into my uniform and smooth out the few creases that always seem to appear overnight, spray starch is amazing for this! After I’ve checked I have everything I need in my pockets (scissors, lipbalm, ampoule snapper, multiple black pens, tiny notebook, and ID badge) and grabbed my lunchbox out of the fridge I cover my uniform up with a long coat and make my way in. I leave at about 0640 so that I can walk in and arrive at 0650.

I’m on labour ward this week, so arrive for handover where we’re told about all the women who are in at the moment and briefly told about anyone who’s waiting to come up to the ward for induction. Because I’m a third year I pick which women I’d like to look after for the day, to make sure I’m able to get the skills and experiences I need. I opt to look after someone in spontaneous labour, so spend the day carrying out normal labour care (listening in every 15 minutes, making sure the woman is comfortable, supporting her into positions that will help her baby, making lots of cups of coffee for her birth partners!) and eventually facilitate the birth. My mentor helps me with the practical bits whilst a third midwife does some documentation for us. After everything is finished, mum and baby are well and we’ve made the woman comfortable and her baby is feeding we go to the office for a coffee and do all the immediate paperwork to admit the baby as a patient to the unit and complete the birth documentation. We have a drink while we do this, and debrief about the birth and how it went.

I go for my lunch break when there’s a lull in the shift, while my mentor stays with the woman. Then we switch over! I’ll help the woman with feeding, a shower or a wash, and then after talking through some paperwork and safety tips she and her partner take their new baby home. They’ll be seen by another midwife at home tomorrow, so I wish them all the best and thank them for having me! My mentor and I go through some of my paperwork and she signs off some of my skills. Every year we have a list of skills in each area that we have to get ‘signed off’.

We start looking after another woman, but have to hand over her care to another midwife when our shift ends. After we’re finished I go and use the phone to contact the women on my caseload and check how they and their babies are. I’m not seeing any of them for a few days but have told them I will phone to make sure they’re well.

I leave by 1930, walk home and get in by 1940. Then it’s just the usual routine! Supper, a shower, maybe a bit of reading and then into bed as early as possible ready for the next day!

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