Never ‘just’ a student

“I’m sorry, I’m just a student.”

Sound familiar? How many times have you said this while out on placement? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m ashamed to say it’s more often than I can count, especially in the first two years of my training. It possibly stems from a lack of confidence or uncertainty, perhaps a fear that I’d do or say something wrong – something we’re all bound to experience at some point during our training.

But is this lack of confidence a wider issue among qualified nurses, as well as students? Do we sometimes have a tendency, as a profession, to devalue our work and contribution? Do we see ourselves as less important or influential than other health professionals?

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Conference programme

I recently attended the 2017 Nursing and Midwifery Conference held by the newly formed Manchester Foundation Trust at Manchester Royal Infirmary. The keynote speech was given by Dr Eden Charles, a leadership coach and consultant who has been successfully supporting individuals to create cultural change in their organisations, including the NHS, for more than 30 years. He recognised that as nurses and midwives it is in our nature to give, to put others first and to sometimes put our own needs on the back burner. But, he said, with that sometimes comes a tendency to lack confidence in our huge strength and contribution as a profession. He said he often hears nurses refer to themselves as ‘just’ the nurse and is always baffled because of how important the role really is from the perspective of patients.

As student nurses or midwives, we are on the cusp of joining the largest professional body in the health service who are in a unique and privileged role as both care givers and advocates for patients. Although not yet registered, we are still an integral part of the nursing profession and make a difference in many ways to care in the NHS. The more confidently we value our contribution, the better we can speak out for our patients and give a voice to those who otherwise might not be heard.

In his speech, Dr Charles said: “Never say ‘I am just a nurse’. Change that story to ‘I am a professional nurse’. Put yourself into the world boldly and confidently as people who deserve to have a voice.” He challenged us to be ‘nursing rebels’ or ‘rebels for compassion’; to acknowledge our strength and abilities in order to gain greater influence and make changes to practice that really matter. He reminded us that leadership can be found at all levels, not just at the top; we all have a responsibility to bring about the changes we want to see. It’s not always easy or straightforward, but as students we can make positive changes by living the values that brought us to nursing or midwifery in the first place.

So I’m making a promise to myself and I hope you will too; I will never be ‘just the student’ or ‘just a nurse’ ever again.

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Freshers…all fresh faced and in information overload!

Welcome freshers…..WELCOME! To all the first year student midwives (and nurses)…welcome:-)

You are probably feeling a little overwhelmed with information? You are trying to settle into a new room/house/city if you’ve left home, getting to grips with MyManchester/ Blackboard, meeting new people, finding your way around campus, trying to work out how to fit in all your study skills & core skills, finding your way to campus and battling traffic for 9am lectures, trying to find somewhere to eat which doesn’t involve queuing for half an hour…. etc etc! I am feeling slightly panicky just reading that back! I am not here to throw more information at you just to guide you gently in a supportive direction!

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I am going to give you a few tips to get through the next few weeks of block uni before you head out on placement:

  1. The huge amount of information you are being given is just that…….MASSIVE! Don’t panic. Use your independent study as timetabled and give yourself one whole day off at the weekend where you do NO studying at all. Do something you love on this day! Your brain needs time to consolidate the huge amount of learning and information you are taking on board. Cramming more and more information in constantly is counter productive. Have a day off, do something you enjoy, spend time with friends and chill. You will be more refreshed starting again the following day.
  2. Eat properly! You are freshers and it’s the first time away from home for some of you. Midwifery is not a ‘normal’ degree where you are in lectures 11 or so hours a week! You need to be in good health and that means taking care of yourself physically (as well as psychologically!) to ensure you can maintain the required high energy levels to sustain you through the next 3 years of this degree.
  3. On the same note-get plenty of sleep! Go out and enjoy yourselves but allow time to recover properly…burn out is a huge issue on this degree so start as you mean to go on by resting plenty and being sensible with drinking alcohol! I am hiding my eyes as I write that as I know I sound like an old lady/mum (I am both!) but you can still go out and enjoy yourselves but don’t go out every night and ensure you rest!

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4. Try not to look too far ahead…..get through today’s lectures learning as much as you can and do the extra study but try not to worry about what needs doing tomorrow. After this first 6 weeks you will be on placement where you will only be in university 2 days per week (with the associated independent study/extra reading) so this is a really intense period of learning compared to the rest of your degree. See these next few weeks as the foundations being laid for what is to come. You are first years, you are not expected to know everything (we are never expected to know everything but certainly  not as first years!).

5. Be KIND to yourselves, be KIND to your cohort (believe me…they will get you through the next 3 years as few people outside of this degree understand the intensity!) and use us (the 2nd/3rd years, your PASS leaders and all support mechanisms out there!) we are here to help and we want to help.

Go forth and immerse yourselves in the adventure you are embarking on! xx

 

Hello from the other side…

We’re delighted to share this guest blog from Lizzie, a fourth year Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery student from the University of Queensland, Australia. Lizzie shares her incredible experience on exchange at the University of Manchester where she is completing her final nursing placement in A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary:

“Hello… Can you open your eyes please… What’s your name? Do you know where you are?

My name’s is Lizzie, I’m the student nurse looking after you. How can I help?”

Welcome to the adrenaline packed, electrifying, exhausting and incredibly humbling world of Accident and Emergency. I’m one of two UQ final year Bachelor of Nursing/ Midwifery student’s fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity to go on Exchange to the University of Manchester, and complete my final Nursing Undergraduate Placement in A+E at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

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I can’t believe in just under three weeks I’ll be finished my nursing degree! When I was little I always dreamt of being able to help people with my hands, my heart and my brain. I actually have come to feel so at home in the hospital – nursing has fit me like a glove. I love to learn, I’m a people person, but most of all I feel such a sense of satisfaction when I know I’ve made a difference. That’s why I’m excited, and proud to (almost) be a nurse.

I’ve been in the UK for 3 months now. Words can’t describe some of the things I have seen, how much I have grown personally and professionally, and how much I love it here – but I’ll give it my best.

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A+E is a never-ending puzzle. In comes a person with a list of symptoms, and (in the time constraints of the National Health Service’s 4-hour max wait times) you assess, stabilise, gain a history, conduct tests, perform interventions, monitor for the impact of these interventions, and then either refer them to a specialty or (hopefully) send them home. The true skill comes in managing many patients simultaneously – yet still treating, valuing and respecting each as an individual.

While every shift is an adventure – here are some of my highlights:

In A+E when there is a really critical person about to come in we get pre-alerted by a call from the Ambulance service to a “Red Phone”. The Nurse in charge takes the call, and then alerts the department over the loud-speaker – “Red Standby, Adult Major Trauma – ETA 5mins”.

One of these “Red Standbys” was a motorbike vs car head on collision, resulting in fractures to the patient’s femur, hip, wrist, and back… I got to look after and stabilize the patient, and follow them through to the Orthopedic Trauma Operating Theatre. The surgeons and theatre nurses were so kind, they not only talked me through the 3 operations, but they even let me scrub in so I could stand right next to the surgeon as he used metal rods, plates and pins to reconstruct the patient’s broken bones.

I have been actively involved in eight cardiac arrests (one was on my first day – but that’s another story). I’ve helped wheel a patient down the hallway while they were actively receiving CPR, and get them to the “Cath-Lab” where under X-ray guidance surgeons were able to guide a wire up the patient’s femoral artery, and use a stent to reopen the diseased blood vessels of the heart, and save his life.

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I have been blessed with a plethora of opportunities to learn – just over a week ago I traveled to Chorley to complete a simulation training day in “Out of Hospital Emergencies” with the Paramedics and Army Reserve. I’ve worked with an advanced practice nurse running a Community Clinic for Chronic Diseases, and have done home visits with a GP for the day – visiting some of the sickest home-bound patients.

Just yesterday I got to ride in an ambulance for the first time as we transferred a patient to a specialist hospital for neurosurgery. The patient was critical, so we traveled on “blue lights”. The paramedic crew were amazingly skilled, calm and good at balancing as we tore down the highway.

Manchester is a beautiful city to explore, and the rest of the UK is so close that I’ve being doing my best to see as much as can on my days off. So far I’ve day-tripped to the Lakes District, spent a weekend in Bath visiting the Roman baths and Stonehenge, seen some stunning castles in Wales, and travelled to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day!

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There are some exciting opportunities on the horizon – in my final week as a student nurse I’ll be attending a conference in London and on shift with the London Ambulance Service.

I have been so lucky to have worked as part of an incredibly supportive team and mentored by inspiring nurses and doctors. I won’t sugar coat it – I have seen some heartbreaking things (as is the nature of Accident and Emergency), but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve found my calling – caring for people when they are most vulnerable. Be that at the beginning (as a student midwife) or at the end (as a student nurse), it’s my privilege to love, support and provide dignity. Not as a healthcare professional, but as one human being caring for another human being.

I have learned there is never a situation in which a non-judgmental ear, a hand to hold, and kindness won’t help.

I’ve realised how precious every moment is.

Antenatal parent education- does it have a place in modern society?

ctmI adore parentcraft, why? Because I adore discussing the subject I love so very much. I love talking to women, their partners, their families about something which to them is unknown and very very scary.

Parentcraft is a funny thing! Some midwives adore it others can’t think of anything worse than “preaching” in front of a group of perspective parents.

It saddens me the lack of funding and hours the NHS invests into parent education. Year after year, maternity reports publish how important antenatal education is in facilitating positive mother and baby outcomes.  How discussing stages of labour, mode of delivery, pain relief, postnatal care and infant feeding to name a few are absolutely vital to achieving positive outcomes.

This week I was lucky enough to look after a lovely couple I had met in my parent craft classes.  Half way through her labour she told me how much she loved parentcraft and how informative it had been!! She recited aspects of the sessions I had spoken about including the stages of labour and the amazing oxytonic affects produced by feeling supported, loved in labour! I felt such a sense of achievement that the sessions had really helped the couple and I went on to deliver their beautiful baby girl!!!

I believe there is a place in today’s society for parent education but midwives must evolve and adapt in order to engage the audience. Nowadays information we all need is just a click away on an app or a search engine. But nothing beats a positive engaging face to face session.

I certainly won’t be shying away!!! I can not wait to get stuck into antenatal education when I qualify!! Spreading the word of the wonderful physiology of pregnancy, childbirth, infant feeding and much much more!!!!

 

 

Mysterious midwife? Vs obstetric nurse

So at the end of this week I will have finished my nine week community placement and I am absolutely gutted! 😩

Community to me IS midwifery- community encompasses the entire midwifery continuum. From booking to postpartum the community midwife is highly skilled in all areas of midwifery. For those who are unaware of what a community midwife does an average day from personal experience is a full antenatal clinic dealing with a wide range of medical, social issues, recognising safeguarding problems- including domestic violence, mental health problems, poverty amongst many many more.

Postnatal home visits, parent education, meetings with multidisciplinary agencies, phone calls from colleagues, anxious women, the hospital…. the list goes on!!!!!!!

One of the most beautiful amazing things we get to advocate in community is homebirth. Indeed research tells us that giving birth in the comfort of your own home with your family, partner, home comforts round you increases oxytocin- the hormone of love, childbirth, bonding and feeding which will therefore lead to positive outcomes. Of course some women are not suitable and we throughly risk assess all women in our care at booking to determine plan of care for delivery, providing the woman with the most upto date evidence based practice.

Of late, being an avid tweeter I have become increasingly alarmed by a small but growing consensus of people who believe midwifery has no place in contemporary society. These people believe it to be an ideology, a fantasy, a dream concept. I was very disturbed to read one post attacking midwives for our quest to promote normal birth as being for our own selfish gains. Believing that promotion of normal birth, home delivery to be nothing more than a ridiculous ideology that no longer features in a medicalised world.

This is the very reason why I feel midwifery is not just underrepresented but STILL in 2017 the average joes’ knowledge of childbirth and maternity is so poor that it is very easy to whip up so much negative hype- particularly on the back of terrible tragedies such as morecombe bay.

Why is childbirth seen as such a mysterious entity??? Why compared to most industrialised countries do we have abysmal breastfeeding rates?

Who do we blame for the increasing trend towards the medicalisation of child birth and the entire maternity care package?

Its somewhat of a wicked problem but all I know is the role of the midwife is to show care and compassion, to recognise deviations from the norm and REFER!!, promote normal pregnancy and labour. To be a midwife you need to care, care about the woman you are looking after, the baby in utero. Our strive for normality in childbirth proves how much we care! We want the very best outcome for the gorgeous ladies and babies we look after.

So please help spread the word-……..Midwifery is a vocation not a cult!!!!

PTSD and Midwifery- Don’t be ridiculous!

So I arrived home today after a  day of lectures to find the latest edition of the Midwives journal- The Royal College of Midwives (Winter edition 2016) . Having a read through I stumbled across an article regarding PTSD in the workplace.  ‘Facing the truth- PTSD and the profession’ (RCM 2016).

As I read the first paragraph my heart sank- thoughts of nightmares, comments of panic attacks, drinking to stop the thoughts, ascribed so eloquently, this sounded more like a scene from Full Metal Jacket.  As I read further it was revealed that the account was taken from a first year student midwife who had witnessed a horrendous birth at the end of her first year.  My heart sank further- statistics now show that 1 in 20 midwives will experience clinically significant post- traumatic stress disorder in the UK (Sheen et al 2015).

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PTSD affects anyone who has been exposed to trauma, as student midwives, registered midwives and practitioners we are all aware of the enormity of our profession- the severe lack of funding and TLC our precious NHS needs deserves. The RCM (2016a) report that the pressure on midwives has never been as great, longer working hours, no time for basic human necessities like having a wee! Not getting breaks, teamed with the fact that the birth rate is up almost one quarter in the last decade (Office of National Statistics 2014) ,compounding staff shortages and increasing multiple births, increase in maternal age and expectant mothers with pre-existing conditions means the strain and stress on the midwife has never been so prevalent.

The RCM  has recognised this and has adapted the ‘caring for you’ charter.  The aim is for organisations to acknowledge and sign the charter.  To improve the health, working conditions and quality of care of student midwives and midwives.

What I take from this article and what I think we all need to remember is that we must care for ourselves- A midwife who works in a positive, compassionate and supportive workplace is more likely to deliver positive, compassionate and supportive care!

SOOOOOOOOOOOO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND EACH OTHER!!!!  WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Tips for first year Student Midwives….

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT!!! YOU ARE STUDENT MIDWIVES!

How are you all finding semester 1? Terrifying? Is life sciences sucking the life out of you? Have some lectures left you running for the hills crying into your pints at the SU? Have you actually got over the shock of being a student midwife yet and now the reality of being a student midwife is kicking in?

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Ok…so as a second year the horrors of that first semester are still fresh enough in my mind that I get goosebumps at the thought of how I felt this time last year but I am also sat here having survived so feel it may be a good idea to share how I got through it! I will add that maybe not everyone finds this first semester as a student midwife hard but I did and a lot of my cohort did so here are some tips that got me through to semester 2 in one piece and nearly sane!

  1. Don’t look too far aheadby this I do not mean do not plan…planning is GOOD (see point 2!) but do not look at your timetable for 4 weeks time and think ‘how can I possibly manage to do ALL THAT WORK?” . Think about what you need to do today and what you need ready for tomorrow. Have an awareness of assignments whilst you are reading stuff but don’t be consumed by it! One day at a time…your knowledge is building up one brick at a time so if you look too far ahead you will overwhelm yourself and you cannot possibly know what you do not know so just be with what you need to do now, today.
  2. PLAN –  you need to be organised! USE the time allocated to you for Guided independent study and independent study. If the timetable says 3 hours do 3 hours! It sounds silly but this will help you ensure you are doing the right level of work. I have a list of studying to do which I add to and cross things off as necessary! It helps me sleep at night not worrying I may be missing something i need to be doing!images-1
  3. Do not over think it (at this stage!)  At the moment you are bombarded with information and, lets face it, you’ve been accepted onto a highly competitive midwifery degree because you LOVE it and want to read and research EVERYTHING around it but you WON’T HAVE TIME! This was a downfall for me! More than once drafts would be returned to me as ‘too complicated’, ‘too complex’ etc because I didn’t want to just read and write about a nice straightforward pregnancy I wanted to research why a perfectly straightforward pregnancy and labour could result in a retained placenta WHY??? Goddamn it!!!! This is not the time for that level of ‘reading around the subject’-read what you have been told to read at this stage as you will have little time to read around the subjects if you want to get through the massive amount of material you need to get through and your FIRST YEAR is focusing on normality do not confuse yourselves by needing to know about the complex stuff….yet! Imagine your knowledge is being built and you need to embed the foundations nice and solidly before branching out further into the more complex stuff!
  4. Use everybody who offers support we are not just being nice we want to help you! Your AA, your PASS leaders, your mentors, midwives on your placement, your lecturers, your PEFs, your ward managers, your PEERS! They are all there as support – support each other! Knowing you are not alone in the struggle is such a bonding experience! Tell people if you are finding something so hard you are questioning your decision to train as a midwife! Take time to check out within yourself how you are feeling and reach out when you are struggling-learning to reflect on your experiences is important on  a lot of levels so the sooner you start the better!
  5. Be kind….to yourselves and others– please be kind to yourselves! Give yourself time off; spend time with your family and friends! Do non-midwifery related stuff! It is EASY to be consumed by this degree but self care is fundamental to resilience and good health so start as you mean to go on! Sleep well, eat well and invest in ‘you’ time it will benefit everybody around you especially you! Look at your cohort-are some people struggling? Reach out to them-this is not a competition we really can ALL succeed but its much nicer if we all help each other along rather than revel when people fall! We are training in a compassionate profession this starts with how we treat each other!
  6. Attend revision lectures – that is it really! Attend them-they are important!
  7. Use social media sparingly– so you did well and got 110% on your first assignment….AMAZING!!! Well done! Please consider why you would put this on Facebook! It’s super you’ve done well and you should be proud of yourself but tell your folks, tell your friends, shout it from the rooftop but jusocial-medast ask yourself why you are sharing that somewhere so publicly when you know others in your cohort are going to read it and maybe might not have managed to get such a great result! We all have areas we are strong in and areas we are not so strong in-support each other and celebrate successes but be mindful of how your fabulous result may make somebody feel who only managed 35% this time.
  8. Enjoy it! You will be frantic at times and wonder how you are ever going to get through your life sciences exam as well as hand in your poster assignment draft, get that presentation ready, complete your placement documentation plus have any kind of extra curricular life! But enjoy being a first year student midwife! Take time to stand on the 4th floor of uni place looking down Oxford Road at the buildings and the hustle & bustle and remind yourself you are a student at MANCHESTER a highly prestigious university! Go to the library and breathe in the smell of ALL THOSE BOOKS embracing how far you have already come and that YOU GOT CHOSEN! Do not be so consumed by panic that you lose sight of why you want to be a midwife. Oh….and learn to scan read! An essential skill!!!