Student voice: The new normal?

By Alana Divito on 22 November 2017 Midwives Magazine Student midwives

The online ‘normal’ birth debate made Alana Divito realise that social media is no substitute for real human communication.

I accepted my first post as a midwife recently, and all I want to do is run away. I can’t help these feelings, and for once in my three years of preparation to become a registered midwife I feel lost and demotivated. These thoughts are not caused by evidence, experience or exposure, but from the wave of social media that has overtaken me.

I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without checking my Twitter or Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat accounts. I assume that many of you reading this may be the same. As I think of the influences that shape us, social media is one of the strongest. So I wonder how this is changing the modern midwife and our profession.

Let’s think about the word ‘normal’ and the recent commentary about normal birth across many social media platforms. Normal means the usual, typical or expected state or condition. Does the use of social media to discuss what is normal seem appropriate? Do we need to adapt our perceptions of normal to the expansion of technology? Is normal communication the organic connection between humans through the senses? If so, where does social media fit in with this? 

Social media has expanded our thought processes, our collective support and learning, and developed an intangible global network – but what are the consequences? What will research uncover about the over-use of mobile devices and social media in years to come? Will social media alter us as humans and take away what we know and do best? Does it make it even harder to focus on, reflect upon and appreciate the normal? 

In terms of compassion, love, closeness, touch, passion, independent thinking and kindness towards others, I fear social media and living online has many underappreciated and scary implications. 

My three-year-old daughter does not know this world yet, nor does she have the patience for it. She waved frantically in my face this evening to gain my attention while I read responses to some of the recent online activity surrounding normal birth. I then stopped to acknowledge her and interact. She smiled, hugged me and we exchanged a loving kiss. 

I’m not a social media addict, but I know that if I continue as I am, I may lose some opportunities to engage in what matters most: not just at home, but with the women and families I care for. Intuition is powerful and very much part of being human. Technology is not. Be at one with those around you and experience life in the present, as we may regret not doing so in the future. 

Connection is most certainly more powerful in the real human form than can ever be experienced virtually. Most importantly, safety will never be solely protected by language or the written word – and definitely not by social media. Physical actions, the ability to communicate face to face, teamworking and the skill to act on intuition instantly will always remain crucial to safe, compassionate and humane midwifery care.  

Alana Divito sits on the RCM Student Midwives Forum as a representative for Northern Ireland

Human Factors

Applying human factors in healthcare leads to:
– Improved safety culture
– Enhanced teamwork
– Better situational awareness.