I wasn't too sure about how to title this list of tips. At first I thought of some lofty title like 'how to learn lots' or 'making the most of your learning'. Then I changed my mind to 'how to survive your midwifery education' but decided I didn't want to scare students too much. So I am left with some general tips about how to juggle academic life and clinical obligations at the same time as maintaining a life and keeping one's sanity!
I think the first thing is to recognize that it isn't going to be easy. I take my hat off to students doing applied health courses these days because there is so much to juggle. So I think it is vital that you devise a strategy for coping, recognizing that this strategy will be just as relevant when you become a qualified health professional.
1. Develop a support network which may range from extremely flexible childcare to a best girlfriend/boyfriend who will drop everything to go to the pub with you.
- Get childcare sorted as soon as you can because you will not be able to concentrate on midwifery if you are worrying about your family. Make sure you are organized to be able to cope with all eventualities including sudden sickness, keeping in mind there may be times when you have to put your family second to midwifery (feel free to disagree with this point).
- Have someone who you can talk to about the very emotional and intense things that will crop up. Someone who will not judge you and will guide you through the process of reflection and making sense of things. You may need several people for this eg someone to off-load and rant to, and a mentor who will help you work through issues in a more constructive way. This mentor may be a midwife or a lecturer but it does need to be someone who you feel completely safe with.
- BUT be extremely mindful of issues of confidentiality. Don't blab about your terrible day with Mrs Smith and Mr Jones at the pub or on the bus. Even when you work in a big city, you'd be very surprised how quickly things get around.
All this sounds great in theory but is difficult to achieve in practice because of all the other claims to your time. To my shame, it has been a long time since I attended a meeting of my local NZCOM group. But, this will hugely benefit your learning about midwifery and health. It will also get your name out there as an enthusiastic and motivated student, which in turn will pay off because people will feel keen to give you extra learning opportunities. And it will help you with finding a job and ongoing professional development once you are a midwife.
3. Make friends with your local librarian - very important if you are wanting expert advice/support as you search for information and use databases.
4. Keep an ongoing record of your learning and achievements which will develop into your professional portfolio. Many countries expect health professionals to maintain a portfolio as a part of their professional requirements so it is a great idea to get started from day 1 of your midwifery life - more on this in a future post.
5. Use social networking tools to help manage your learning as well as network beyond your immediate local midwifery community eg start a blog that chronicles your midwifery journal; have a look at the blogs of other student midwives; use del.icio.us to manage your favorite web sites; subscribe to your favorite web sites and blogs using a RSS feed such as Google Reader; join a midwifery forum such as an email discussion group. This will widen your perspective and access to information, make it easier to manage information, and encourage communication and collaboration in the international midwifery community.
6. Find a balance between midwifery and your life as 'you'. When you work out how to do that...let me know! I haven't met a midwife or student who hasn't struggled with this at some time in her life. I think you have to be prepared that the balance will not always be equal. Sometimes midwifery must take precedence and other times your 'you' life must come first. Things like balanced diet, rest/relaxation and regular exercise all helps but again...it is a matter of 'do what I say, not what I do'!
These are a few thoughts off the top of my head. If you can think of anything else, please drop me a comment especially if you are a student or a new graduate.
Image: 'Oh my God I look Cute33'