Midwifery Volunteering is very important if you're thinking of applying to become a midwife.
Experience is rated highly by midwifery admissions tutors and midwifery interviewers. That's because midwifery at its heart is always a practical skill.
Midwives really value their colleagues if they can just 'get on with it'!
You don't have to get birth experience. You don't even have to get midwifery specific experience. Midwifery volunteering is more about getting transferrable skills that will make you a better student midwife. If you write about your experience on your UCAS application, you'll assure your admissions tutor that you're committed to midwifery.
On my first day of placement as a student midwife, I felt like a kitten among tigers. But after about ten minutes I realised that all I needed to do was show compassion, thoughtfulness, an ability to get onto the women's wavelength, and common sense. Everything else was taught by my mentor.
Getting some experience working with people is really all I needed to develop and prove I had these skills.
Have a read through these 6 ideas for midwifery volunteering:
1. Be a Health Care Assistant or Maternity Care Assistant
This involves basic patient care, bed changes, providing meals, providing someone to talk to, cleaning, and supporting midwives and nurses with their work. With time and training, maternity care assistants often get involved with venepuncture (taking blood), weighing babies, breastfeeding assistance and so on.
I was a health care assistant and I loved being part of the team, getting a few of the nurses to teach me to do blood pressures and get my head round working in a hospital (and frankly the pay was very welcome at that particular point of my life!)
However, a lot of applicants will find this really hard, especially if you have a full time job already. Additionally, being a maternity care assistant is kind of the holy grail of getting experience because you get paid - so it can be very competitive in your area to do this.
2. Ring your local hospital and ask to volunteer on a maternity ward or shadow a midwife
This is obviously good experience and is a strong thing to write about on your UCAS statement. However it can be busy and hard to get a truly good idea of what it's like to be a midwife. Some volunteers on maternity wards report there's a lot of making drinks, directing people who are lost and helping cleaning up - not that these are bad activities! It's just the kind of experience you could get volunteering elsewhere. But on the plus side, you'll get to see how a maternity or labour ward is run, talk to midwives, and absorb the atmosphere. Shadowing midwives out in the community can also be a great way of expanding your knowledge of what a midwife's scope of practice is.
There are some occasions when volunteers are a real asset to the team - for instance, being a good listener to a mum who just needs to offload.
La Leche League (i.e. the 'milk league' in french) is a peer support group for breastfeeders. If you have breastfed, you can consider training as a La Leche League Leader.
It can take around 6 months to process an application. But if you have time before you put your application for midwifery in, you'll get awesome experience counselling women who need your help. You'll gain listening skills, experience with different socioeconomic backgrounds, how to be an advocate for women, and how to empower women. All seriously stellar skills for any midwife in the making.
4. Find an independent midwife and see if you can shadow - though check yourself before you wreck yourself...
This can lead to great experience - and some independent midwives are happy to have pre-midwifery students shadow them. You can find an independent midwife to contact on the UK independent midwife site.
Some important facts before you get in touch:
- these midwives will be often working with vulnerable women who have had a bad experience with NHS care, or are choosing independent care for other complex reasons, so shadowing may not be appropriate
- they often really want to help but their workload is so large that chatting with students can take them away from women
- These midwives also often work for 48 hour stretches at a time, so be careful not to wake them using a client only number when they've finally got the chance to sleep
- Read the independent midwife's site before getting in contact to check they take students
- Use email, be polite, and do your homework by reading their site first - this is a great way of gaining midwifery knowledge
You can organise your own placement, or you can go through a company like Gap Medics. This is quite an expensive option (usually around £1000) but will give you brilliant experience and something really unusual to put on your UCAS statement. You can also make a real difference to a community in need, although be careful to ensure you choose an ethical placement- some countries have limited guidelines around what pre-midwifery students can and can't do.
Gumtree is not to be underestimated. Within a few minutes, I found three great volunteer options that would be mutually beneficial for you and the organisation.
Some of these volunteer opportunities offer training, which is just the kind of experience you need.
6. Call the NCT, support active birth classes or ask to talk to women who have recently experienced maternity care
The National Childbirth Trust offer antenatal and postnatal classes that you may be able to help out with. You can also ring them and ask for a list of numbers of women who would like to talk to you about their experiences with maternity care. I did this when I was applying for midwifery. I put together a small portfolio of my impressions (though I was of course really careful not to identify anyone to betray confidentiality - this could seriously damage your chances, and perhaps hurt the women you are working with).
I remember talking to a mum who was an asylum seeker, a mum recovering from a molar pregnancy, and a teenage mum amongst others. I got some of my best pre-midwifery experience from listening to these women. And they really enjoyed having someone to talk to.
I remember talking enthusiastically at my interviews about my portfolio of these women's experiences, and feeling like my passion was shining through!
I hope you found some of these suggestions helpful. Have you got a really interesting bit of pre-midwifery student experience? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
You should also be aware that volunteering, based on research evidence, is really good for you! So even if you don't get in this year, you'll be: a) giving yourself a whole 'nother year to get transferrable skills and b) helping yourself be happier and healthier.
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