The small but mighty research award

By Eleanor Smithson on 17 August 2023 RCM UK Research Safety Wellbeing Of Women Women ICM - International Congress of Midwives

Eleanor Smithson shares who she is and how she enlisted the experience of Claire Feeley to showcase maternity research and to become one of the shining stars in the field.

Research has always been something I have been interested in throughout my educational journey, and this played a role in the university I chose to attend. I am coming to the end of my second year of midwifery studies at King’s College London. Prior to my midwifery degree I completed a biology degree which included a final masters research project.

I was intrigued to learn how research takes place when it is not something as laboratory based as dissecting fly guts (a very interesting premise for my master’s thesis that was sadly not treated well by covid lockdowns).

Hearing about the RCM Small Research Awards close to deadline, I had quick turn around and I reached out to a number of academics and researchers both at my university and my hospital trust in the hope that maybe someone would support my application. Every person I reached out to was so enthusiastic and willing to sit down with me and discuss their research. I ended up having a very interesting initial discussion with the midwife involved in coordinating all the research at my trust. While I didn’t write up this discussion I found it very informative about how research is undertaken in practice as well as some of the research undertaken within the trust.

As much as I wanted to have a long discussion with both of the researchers who’s work I was most interested in I decided to have a discussion with Claire Feeley. Claire’s research around women’s engagement with maternity services is incredibly interesting and I have found has already helped change the way I interact with women with regards to their birth choices, as well as framing discussions with colleagues around care outside of guidelines. Claire very kindly gave me some time before the start of a busy day but never made me feel rushed and was so willing to answer my questions with regards to her research and her path into research. She was very enthusiastic and welcoming about my own future in research, an interesting contrast to some of my experience with some academics in the STEM field I had previously been in.

The discussions with Claire and the research midwife have made me even more enthusiastic about a career path into midwifery research and I look forward to finding an area I can be as enthusiastic about as the researchers I have encountered are. I would also recommend to any other students or even midwives if there someone who’s work you are interested in, reach out! I’m sure they would be happy to talk to you and spread the word of their work!