I had something completely different planned for this week but I just couldn't wait to get this post up.
The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making is a Facebook group with just over 9,000 members. I started it thinking it would be a small project, but two years on I'm proud of the support it provides and the broad spectrum of members.
Yesterday, a big group conversation on the topic 'midwifery survival guide' was started by a member called Sammi and it really took off. I've done my best to capture and curate the best tips for you in this post.
25 Midwifery Survival Guide Tips
1. Ask for help early. Midwifery is a hugely demanding course, emotionally, physically and financially. Ask those you love, tutors and friends for advice and support.
2. Take care of yourself. You'll spend a lot of time being tired, simply because you'll be trying to learn and work on shift simultaneously. Exercise, eat healthily and meal plan. Invest in yourself.
3. Batch cook. Especially if your placement has reheating facilities, it's brilliant to have meals stored in the freezer that you can defrost and take in. Slow cooker meals are also a winner. You'll be strapped for time, this stuff needs planning out.
4. Take snacks like fruit, nuts, biscuits, cereal bars etc. with you to placement. Then you won't be distracted by hunger if you don't get a break.
5. Shift work is a ditch. (Ok, in the original thread this isn't what was written, but it rhymed with it!) Spread your assignments out into manageable chunks. Do 100-500 words at a time. Keep a document with references or use the referencing software your uni provides. Then when you're balancing shiftwork and essays you can simply slot your work together before submission rather than tackling a whole essay in one sitting.
6. Concentrate on the women in your care. It's all about them.
7. Debrief about placements with other students. This is great for support, but also placements offer varied experiences depending on the women who come in and the setting (birth centre, hospital, community, etc.) Your student colleagues will, therefore, know more about certain topics than you, and you can swap stories and information.
8. There’s no shame in tossing pretty pants to one side and wearing massive comfy pants for a 13 hour shift!
9. In the same vein, soft crop bras with hidden support are great under a white tunic (I’m told Marks and Spencers is the place to shop for these)
10. Have a spare pair of underwear and socks in your bag in case of exploding liquor. Sometimes waters can go unexpectedly and under pressure! Also changing your socks can just be nice on a 13-hour shift. That new sock feeling can get you through.
11. Ask. Ask about anything you're not sure on.
12. Read the maternity hospital guidelines. These will give you a practical guide on what's likely to happen in any given clinical situation.
13. Don't feel you have to buy lots of books. You certainly don't need every textbook. Go to the library instead. Also, don't feel you have to know everything from the outset, the idea is you're there to learn!
14. Have a small notebook in your pocket. Write down new things you've learned, staff names, keycodes and so on.
15. Even if you're nervous, keep saying yes to new experiences on placement. (I love this one - the students that are most able to confront their fears will become confident and competent the fastest.)
16. If you have time, reading for a few minutes on the subject of that days' lecture is very useful – perhaps over your breakfast cuppa?
17. Especially if you're not sure or are underconfident, ask for clarification and help (are you spotting a theme in this post?)
18. Don’t be afraid to challenge what’s unsafe. Better to challenge and be given a rationale than to have something hanging over your head.
19. You'll often be surprised by who will pitch in and help on shift if the workload is unmanageable. This goes for working as a newly qualified midwife and being a senior student. Multitasking and exhaustion make mistakes a lot more likely, so ask for help where possible.
20. Make use of your uni resources and services. If a traumatic shift is on your mind, go and access counselling services. They’ll understand. Even if you just sit and have a cry. Study support at the library, link lecturers, and the uni's financial advice team are all brilliant places to get extra help. You're not expected to do it all on your own.
21. Even if you have a not so nice mentor, remember they’re only human and have their own stresses. It’s not personal, even if it feels that way.
22. A thank you card at the end of a placement can go a long way. Remember mentors need feedback from you to improve their teaching skills.
23. Have your skill book to hand and ask to have things signed off. Don't leave it all to the last minute on placement.
24. Time management is essential, so remember that often 'done is better than good'. Stick to the clock, don't sacrifice your down time in search of perfection.
25. Be proud of your achievements. Progress will keep you smiling and improving. There's no better feeling than when a Mum tells you she thought you were the midwife, not the student!
Now it's your turn, please add your own tips in the comments below!
Huge thanks to The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making, in particular, Sammi (see her 'deaf student midwife page' and story here) - I'm not at liberty to list everyone who was involved in this conversation but if one of these tips is yours thanks for adding to this resource for future midwives!
The Secret Community is one my favourite places for midwifery support online. Everyone is welcome, no matter whether you're an aspiring, student, newly qualified or highly qualified midwife.
The ethos we aim for in the Secret Community is based on a quote from J.B. Priestley: 'Always be kinder than necessary, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.'
It is a real community, debates happen, but we do try our hardest to keep things supportive. We have an amazing moderator team who range from aspiring midwives, to students, to postnatal depression volunteers, to midwives who are also nurses, and an infant feeding specialist (I can't thank them enough, they're amazing!).
We do interview support, we have Q and A evenings - in fact, author and independent midwife Virginia Howes will be joining us at 7pm tonight to talk about UK independent midwifery, how exciting is that?! Join us by clicking here.
Hope to see you there,