Have I mentioned to you that I’m a liar?
A big, fat, pants on fire liar.
I’ll get back to why this is the case, and why I’m OK with that at the end of this post.
But first I want to talk about midwifery blogging in general. I’ve seen a lot of new midwifery blogs start up in the last 6 months. This is wonderful – midwives learn by storytelling, and the internet is an amazing place to share stories.
But there are things to get right to make sure your blog is written in the best ethical way.
Blogging responsibly as a midwife can feel like such troubled waters.
Many of us wonder ‘am I OK to do this at all?'
That can lead to feeling demoralised, and not publishing brilliant posts that you've taken loads of time over.
I want to give you 4 writing tools, to make sure your posts are as professional and woman centred as your practice.
1. Confidentiality – Write As If Your Clients Are Listening
'Write as you speak’ is one of the most powerful writing techniques I know. If you get it right, your reader will feel you’re in the room talking to them.
For midwives blogging, a good addition to the rule is:
'Write as you speak – and as if your clients are listening'.
If you’re writing about a particular event at work, this means you’ll need to change all identifying features so the woman can’t be recognised. (You’ll be used to doing this for reflections and other Uni work).
Change names, dates, times, places, outcomes, and so on, and cut and paste anecdotes into other stories to keep clients untraceable.
This is for a few reasons. The legal details are difficult to navigate if you identify clients online. As a student or qualified midwife you have to uphold confidentiality (NMC guidance).
Even if you have permission to discuss a woman’s care on your blog, it’s often best to keep it anonymous. What if later the client for whatever reason feels she’s unhappy with care?
Having a public description online of her birth or pregnancy events could cause even more friction – not cool for anyone.
Remember it’s the woman’s life event. However involved you are as a midwife, it will mean far more to the woman and family. You’ll need to respect that it’s her story to tell.
Write as if your client is listening to you, and you’ll stay on point and totally ethical.
A disclaimer is also a very good idea to keep you and clients safe - (example: click and scroll down).
You may find later in your blogging career there will be circumstances where you can identify women, especially if they write for your blog. But for now, I recommend M15 standard of secrecy.
2. Don’t Claim You're The Last Word
Sara Wickham, independent midwife and researcher is master of ensuring readers know that midwifery evidence is not clear cut.
Sara tends to end each of her posts with a phrase like:
‘I realise there are many issues tied into this area, for more information head to…’
This is a great practice to get into if you’re blogging about specific midwifery topics (waterbirth, perineal repair, homebirth etc.).
It tells your reader that a) they’ll need to assess research for themselves to come to a good decision and b) you’re not responsible for any decision they might make.
It also makes your writing more interesting as you pull your reader into the debate.
3. Don’t Apologise – Even If You’re New
I see lots of student midwives start blogging saying things like ‘I’m just a first year student, so I apologise if this is wrong…’ or ‘I’m just newly qualified so my opinion doesn’t count for much’…
Huh. Midwifery is your career but you still want to write about it in your spare time?
Don’t suffer from imposter syndrome, your opinion and experiences are valuable.
You're in a unique position. Many students and newly qualified midwives find it easier to see things from a client’s point of view.
If you're new to midwifery and obstetric care, you’ll pick up on confusing or unhelpful practice fast. You’re also more than likely passionate and up to date with lots of info.
Your blog can be an inspirational place for midwives, because you’re new.
In fact, who are you to deprive the midwifery community of your insight and writing skills? Get typing!
4. Cope With Criticism
Because of all the guidelines, and the potential for social media to cause harm, the midwifery community can be critical about blogging. There’s also a fear around litigation and this can cause midwives to react big time stylies to anything they feel is dangerous.
I’ve been criticised for things before, sometimes wrongly – and sometimes I’ve learned more from criticism than from years’ worth of writing.
If you’ve read the NMC guidelines, you’ve upheld confidentiality, and you’re writing from a place of genuinely wanting to pass on excitement and information to others, I wouldn’t worry too much.
Remember – opinions are so much easier to have than actually creating something!
You deserve to be commended for giving to the midwifery community.
Back to why my pants are on fire and my nose is as long as a telephone wire…
When I write about my own experience of back when I was a practising midwife, I change names, dates and times, but also often hospital locations, and the sex of the baby. Funny or interesting events are also moved around so staff and women aren’t recognisable.
I do this to make sure the woman I’ve had the privilege of caring for is safe from details going online.
I change almost everything about my experiences, and just give a flavour of the kind of things that happen.
It’s midwifery stock, but you can’t recognise the individual ingredients.
Does this make what I write less valid?
I don't think so. I get my feelings with as much honesty as I can, and never try to put myself in a better light. My midwifery stories are true; I’ve just changed the beginnings, middles, and ends.
In fact I’m writing a midwifery novel right now. The student midwife who is the main character decided to have an abortion – and I draw on inspiration from a real person. But the facts are changed so much she’s not identifiable.
But that authentic experience behind the fiction is what I hope will make it worth reading and learning from.
I hope this post helps any aspiring writers in blogging responsibly as a midwife!
I’d so love to hear from you - please let me know:
a) Do you have a midwifery blog? Could you leave me a comment linking to your favourite blog post you’ve written?
b) Do you struggle to write sometimes, through insecurity, the legal headache, or other reasons? What tools or practices help you?
c) Have you had either a good or bad experience with midwifery blogging that impacted on a woman’s care?
It’s SO important to get this right. As you may have noticed I often want to dance naked on the beach with excitement over the internet pushing a major shift in social and educational progress – this is awesome for midwives... (the progress I mean, not the dancing..)
But as with any powerful tool, there are negatives, and we need to ensure women and midwifery careers are protected. If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I'd love it if you shared it with a midwifery mate, and you could also consider subscribing to Midwife Diaries so posts will land in your inbox.
Much Love. I hope the midwifery world is treating you well,