Student voice: own, learn and laugh

By Kirsty Clifton on 23 November 2018 Midwives Magazine Student midwives

Kirsty Clifton admits to a mistake she made and reveals how she has learnt to let go of worrying about it.

The woman sitting opposite me rocked back and forth on a birthing ball. She quietly breathed through another powerful contraction and looked up at me when it had passed. I checked my watch. ‘It’s time to do your obs again,’ I said. My mentor wanted me to continue auscultating the fetal heart rate while she popped out of the room. Unfortunately, I misunderstood what she wanted me to do and started taking the woman’s blood pressure, pulse and temperature every 15 minutes, along with the fetal heart rate. In hindsight it did feel excessive, as soon as I’d finished one set of obs there was only about five minutes before I had to start another, but for some reason common sense just didn’t kick in. I apologised profusely when I realised what I had been doing. The woman was so lovely and said she was just glad she knew everything was ok with her as well as her baby. Nevertheless, I was so embarrassed about this silly misunderstanding; I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was my first placement in a delivery setting and I was feeling very unsure of myself. There was so much to learn and all of it felt so alien to me. I know you have all been there.

Since then I have learnt a few things about how to deal with small mistakes as a student. I now use my mantra: ‘Own, learn and laugh’ to give myself permission to let go of my mistakes. Own up to it and ask for help. Learn from your mentor, you’re not likely to make the same mistake twice. Then allow yourself to see the funny side of your mistake and laugh about it!

I’m not talking about the kind of mistake that could put you or the woman in your care in danger; I’m talking about the little things that can make you feel really silly. You may have even lost sleep over it, but your mentor probably hasn’t even given it a second thought. You can’t expect to learn without making a few mistakes along the way and no one expects you to be perfect. Even still, we are all too hard on ourselves, which increases stress levels and can really shake your confidence. It is such an important part of self-care to be kind to yourself, allow yourself to be human and let go of your mistakes.

I’m telling you about my embarrassing mistake because I don’t want you to worry about yours. It can feel quite isolating out on placement. Just know that you are not the first student to make a mistake, and you most certainly will not be the last.

Kirsty Clifton is a second-year student midwife at Anglia Ruskin University

Top tips

  • Remember that making small mistakes can be an effective way to learn
  • Practise self-care by not being so hard on yourself if you do make a mistake
  • Own, learn and laugh.