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Broaden your horizons

Broaden your horizons

Study days are crucial to enriching midwifery education, but it’s not always easy for students to attend. Claire Green reports on a chance that she’d believed was out of reach.

Claire GreenThe NMC (2009) states that midwifery students should be prepared for lifelong learning, which provides opportunities to develop their level of knowledge and skills, and allows for personal and professional maturity. Students can be considered at a privileged time in their career, when they are keen to learn and supported by academic tuition.
 
But how can midwifery students broaden their understanding and facilitate their continued professional development (CPD), to prepare themselves to be NMC-registered midwives? Midwifery 2020 (2010) identifies the level of support needed for attendance at educational opportunities, such as study days, suggesting that this enhances the level of midwifery care while adding to the midwife’s CPD. However, as a student it is not always easy to attend such events, despite being eager to learn, with obstacles including budgets, placement hours, portfolio maintenance, assignment research and writing. But I was fortunate to receive an opportunity to extend my midwifery knowledge, which I thought was far from my grasp.
 
I’m particularly interested in the care midwives can provide to bereaved parents, specifically the role of the specialist bereavement midwife. My dissertation is centred around this topic and I thought it would be beneficial to my research to attend the joint Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS), Bliss and RCM study day – Uncertainty and loss in maternity and neonatal care – in September. I had the support of my lecturers to attend, but when I looked into the financial aspects of attending, as well as working around my placement hours, I found I could not possibly afford the day within my remit as a student. Financial help from my university was available, but it was extremely complex and so I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to attend. 
 
Upon meeting with a bereavement nurse to discuss my dissertation, she told me that SANDS had funded a place for this conference, but that no one was going. I jumped at the chance and attended the day, all expenses paid by Cardiff SANDS, to whom I am immensely grateful. Although when I arrived I felt incredibly daunted by all the people there, I soon started talking to other student midwives and relaxed, as we were all there for the same purpose.
 
The day proceeded with lectures from several highly skilled professionals. I really enjoyed listening to them speak passionately about their area of expertise. There were also some brave women who spoke about their childbearing loss, which was extremely moving and an invaluable opportunity to understand further what these parents go through, if that is ever possible. I also particularly enjoyed Mavis Kirkham’s talk, having read several of her books and used her as a reference for my assignments. I was amazed by her midwifery knowledge and absolute passion for her profession – an inspirational figure for student midwives across the UK. Hilary Patterson, a bereavement support midwife from Ireland, also spoke about her role and its value. I found this very beneficial, as it forms part of my dissertation topic and, ultimately, my career aspirations. 
 
On reflection, I gained so much from the day: networking, talking to other student midwives, listening to the latest research and evidence and finding out how to care for bereaved parents. I have been able to develop my dissertation further with this information I and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to interact with maternity services in the rest of the UK, rather than just my South Wales bubble! 
 
I would have missed out on all of this had I not pursued my interest and kept discussing it with colleagues. I encourage all RCM student members to look into other avenues to attend conferences and study days, which often seem out of our reach. They provide a great opportunity to represent your university and engage with the wider world of midwifery while developing your knowledge and skills base and, of course, your CPD.
 
 
Claire Green
Student midwife, Cardiff University
 
 
 
References
NMC. (2009) Standards for pre-registration midwifery education. NMC: London. 
 
Midwifery 2020 UK Programme (2010) Midwifery 2020: Delivering expectations. Midwifery 2020 UK Programme: Edinburgh.