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Sharing innovation

Sharing innovation

Tracey Barnfather and Janice Smith describe how a new midwifery skills suite is providing students with invaluable learning experiences at the University of Northampton.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick pays a visit to the midwifery skills suiteStudents have always welcomed the opportunity to learn, develop and master clinical skills. In recent years, many universities have developed clinical skill laboratories (Dow, 2008; Nel, 2008; Pellowe et al, 2010) that mimic a hospital setting, such as having a side room of four beds. 
 
At the University of Northampton there are similar facilities, driven by the fields of adult nursing, social work, dental nursing and occupational therapy. Across the university, there are numerous other facilities that can be accessed by student midwives. These include a moot room (offering potential to shadow a coroner’s court) and an ambulance for the paramedics. 
 
Quinn (2007) identifies that simulated learning should be as realistic as possible, in order for the student to have the luxury of being able to practice procedures and techniques in the safety of a controlled environment, and not be exposed to the additional stressors that a pressurised clinical situation can be open to. Time can be given to allow internalisation of potentially life-saving sequences and, by reacting in a manner appropriate to the situation, hopefully the learner will be prepared to transfer established procedures to the real-life setting when required.
 
The drive to develop a midwifery-specific skills suite arose from ongoing student evaluation, alongside the philosophy of the academic midwifery team: ‘To develop and support dynamic and competent midwives for the future.’ Specifically, the students requested increased access to simulation activities that could enhance and improve their confidence, both emphasising normality and ‘managing’ emergency care.   
 
The University of Northampton prides itself on being ‘number one for value added’ and emphasises the importance of the student experience. The midwifery team pursued this, researching available models and childbirth simulators and visiting laboratories at other universities.
 
Through this research, it was recognised that to promote normality, the suite should be reflective of a home, as well as a typical hospital delivery room. Working alongside estate staff, within a few months the skills suite was planned and completed. 
 
To reduce the ‘clinical’ feeling, the suite is painted in pastel colours and includes soft seating. All equipment is either sensitively displayed (for example, resuscitaire in the delivery room or stored behind discreet floor-to-ceiling cupboards). In our opinion, this is a unique facility that has already been highly evaluated by students and midwives from local NHS trusts. It has also been praised by visitors, including maternity service users and commissioners.
 
On entry to the suite, the visitor walks straight into a ‘sitting room’ and kitchenette. Adjacent to this is an area for tabletop activity using models. Behind this is the delivery room with contemporary equipment, including the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art childbirth simulator. 
 
All areas benefit from overhead cameras, so students and staff can critically reflect upon their performance within a safe, non-threatening environment. 
 
The home setting can be used to develop skills with booking, breaking bad news, and facilitating a home birth. The delivery room benefits from an electric delivery bed, with which students can become familiar by moving into alternative positions, thus increasing confidence and safety in the workplace. 
 
The resuscitaire is supplied by blended oxygen and air via cylinders, allowing students to practice resuscitation skills in a safe environment. The buzzer in the room is ‘live’, so a real sense of urgency can be created if an ‘emergency’ arises.  
 
Harper et al (2011) label this as ‘teaching in the fourth dimension’ in that by creating a memory during simulated learning the student (practitioner) is more likely to be reliable when transferring a skill into a real-life situation.
 
On 28 February this year, the midwifery skills suite facility was officially opened by Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive. She said: ‘It is absolutely critical that we get the education for students right to provide high-quality maternity services for women. It is fantastic to see the innovation going on here and I am really impressed with the facilities at the University of Northampton.’
 
More recently, the full potential of the suite has been realised by the supervisors of midwives across the three local NHS trusts. They are keen to access this learning environment, as they envisage the opportunity to support midwives in practising clinical skills and rebuilding confidence. This has already been used by midwives undergoing developmental or supportive practice. 
 
Furthermore, visual learning tools are being developed by the midwifery team. This allows students and midwives to review and discuss best practice. Currently, continued professional development days are being organised for midwives and paramedics to undertake workshops that are reflective of community scenarios. 
 
This additional facility offers an immersive learning experience, improves the opportunity for collaborative working across professions, and provides a contemporary environment for student midwives, enabling them to become competent, capable, confident and collaborative practitioners.
 
The midwifery team extends its thanks to all the students, estate staff and the Executive Dean in supporting this exciting venture.
 
 
Tracey Barnfather, principal lecturer – lead midwife for education
 
Janice Smith, senior lecturer in practice education, University of Northampton
 
 
References
 
Dow A. (2008) Clinical simulation: a new approach. British Journal of Midwifery 16(2): 94-8.
 
Harper M, Markham C, Eales-Reynolds L. (2011) Simulation: knowledge transfer from classroom to patient care. The Journal of Operating Department Practice 2(4): 12-5.
 
Nel PW. (2010) The use of an advanced simulation training facility to enhance clinical psychology trainees’ learning experiences. Psychology Learning and Teaching 9(2): 65-72.
 
Pellowe C, Elliott S, Murrell K, Thames Valley University. (2010) A comprehensive systematic review of the use of simulation in the continuing education and training of medical, nursing and midwifery staff. See: www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/learningandtech/ Thames_Valley_University_Briefing_Report_17_May_2010.pdf (accessed 9
October 2012).
 
Quinn FM, Hughes SJ. (2007) Quinn’s principles and practice of nurse education (fifth edition). Cengage Learning: Hampshire.