Being a student midwife - Fiona Howard

By Fiona Howard, student midwife on 08 September 2020 Maternity Services Covid-19 Student midwives SMF - Student Midwives Forum

I first considered a career in midwifery at the age of 17 – but life took a different path and at 25, I was married with two daughters and living in the South West of Cornwall. After the birth of my children, my thirst for midwifery grew. Despite this spark, though, there was always something stopping me from applying for midwifery; my children were too young; I didn’t have childcare; I didn’t think we’d be able to survive on one wage while I studied. Despite the challenges, I bit the bullet and signed up for an access course at my local college and I’ve never looked back.

I wanted to learn how to support families in their journey to parenthood and beyond. I wanted to learn more about the miracle of conception and the physiology behind childbearing. I’m now two years into my journey of becoming a midwife and loving every second.

Studying midwifery takes commitment, prioritisation and organisation - I couldn’t do it without my support network of family and friends. I’m often telling mothers to “listen to your body”, but as midwifery students, we need to practice what we preach. When I’m tired, I rest. When I’m missing my children, I make time for them. When I’ve got excess energy, I use it wisely. There is always a solution to a problem and our instincts usually help us find it – we just need to tune into them.

The NMC’s implementation of Practice Supervisors, and clinical placements being revamped, are changing maternity services. In my experience, there have been teething problems but I’ve learnt communication is key – between students, trusts, universities and the NMC.

That’s not the only change that’s taking effect. The most recent MBRRACE report and the Black Lives Matter campaign have thrown the differences in outcomes for pregnant women into sharp focus. With the RCM offering extra i-learn courses and universities amending their curriculum to ensure that students receive an inclusive and diverse education, I truly hope that these outcomes improve.

My hope is for every woman to have a positive birth experience in maternity care. I’m aware of my current rose-tinted glasses, and I feel they may slip down as I progress through my training. However, I hope that I maintain the ethos that I have now; communication, compassion and genuine care can make a huge difference. While guidelines and policy are vital, we need to maintain communication and compassion for women to make informed choices over her body.

The pandemic hit while I was halfway through my first year. I missed out on 16 weeks of clinical placement and studied three modules via remote learning. With nurseries and schools closed, combining Level 5 study with a young family has been near impossible. As restrictions ease, I’m feeling nervous and excited to return to clinical placement.

I’m keen to put theory into practice and I am so excited to simply work with women again. Throughout the pandemic, I used the RCM’s i-learn tools to consolidate the theory I had learnt from university lectures, along with brushing up on clinical skills that I have not been practiced for the best part of a year. The RCM has strived to offer updates from the NMC and HEE, keeping students in the loop and disseminating information from various organisations. It’s been well worth the £1.67 a month!

If you’re just beginning your midwifery journey, congratulations! If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be to have a support network on hand for a chat, a brew or a bit of chocolate cake. It helps to have people remind you why you signed up and how far you’ve come. But also trust yourself and listen to your body. This is the start of something special, embrace it.

Find out more about the student midwife membership here