Megan is a new midwifery graduate working as a Lead Maternity Carer in New Zealand. This means she carries a total midwifery caseload, caring for women from conception until 4/6 weeks after they have had their babies. I asked Megan if she could pass on any advice to senior midwifery students who are contemplating life as a new graduate. Whilst Megan's thoughts are focused on midwifery in New Zealand, a lot of what she says has relevance to midwifery students anywhere in the world. Thank you, Megan.Your biggest learning begins when you graduate. These were the words a midwife said to me in my first month of practice and these words ring in my ears most days!
I graduated in December 2007 and am practicing as an independent Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife in a practice with three other midwives. I am well supported within the practice and have a mentor outside of this practice.
Sarah suggested to me that I might like to do a 'guest' blog with advice/suggestions for senior midwifery students who are about to embark on their midwifery practice.
The one thing that struck me the most after graduating was that the responsibility and decision making for the women in my care fell on me and me alone! I needed to make decisions and deal with the middle of the night phone calls and try and remember all the things to ask! This gets easier with experience, as do most things, but I remember being asked what I wanted to do in terms of a woman's care and I didn't really know! One of my colleagues I graduated with keeps her New Zealand College of Midwives Handbook for Practice by her bed, so that she can refer to it if a woman rings her in labour in the middle of the night. This way, ensuring she doesn't miss anything!
If as a third year student you are doing your placements in the area you are planning to work, the first suggestion I would make is to network. Networking with the midwives who already work in the area is beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, they can help you through your third year, these women are a great source of knowledge and wisdom and are more than often happy to explain something to you and help you, whether it is assistance with finding equipment in Delivery Suite or practical help with a clinical skill or the institution's paperwork! When you graduate the most significant benefit I have found is the support given as a new graduate. It can be a frightening and overwhelming time as a new graduate if you're with a woman in labour for example, and the labour is not progressing normally. There are a number of possible things that may need to be done, for example, documentation, the woman needs support and an explanation of what's happening, as well as discussion with the core midwifery staff and possible consultation with the medical staff. If you have developed a relationship with the midwives, I have found it is easier to ask for their help and support and to make use of their experience and wisdom!
A lot of these midwives have a huge amount of wisdom, knowledge and experience. This is a great source of learning for a new graduate! Being able to openly communicate your personal needs, whether you need a cup of coffee, or professional advice. Being able to ask for support and making the most of the midwifery knowledge is hugely beneficial, often our midwifery colleagues have the information and can provide the guidance you need to make the decision without the need to refer to a doctor straight away. Of course, there will be times when it is necessary to refer to the medical staff straight away, and their advice and support in this situation, is reassuring and a good way to discuss what your actions might be. I accept that the culture in each institute is different and therefore, the way a new graduate midwife is accepted (or not) is different as well.
Another challenge to a new graduate or in fact all midwives is how do we keep up to date with the latest research in order to have an evidence based practice. This would be especially challenging for those midwives who are not working in major centres with access to a library or an institution where you can access online databases or journals. Another challenge in keeping up to date with the latest evidence could be finding the time! Getting your head around the paperwork and other responsibilities that come with being a midwife, sometimes leave little time, at least initially for making the time and effort to find out where and how to access relevant journals.
My final thoughts that I thought I would share on this subject is being kind to yourself, treat situations that don't necessary go as expected as a reflective and learning experience. Having a mentor or a trusted person to debrief I've found is of great benefit.Image: 'ellie_newborn_4_bw'