Friday, February 29, 2008

Telecom Virtual Rugby Super 14 : I'm getting all excited!

Today, I got very excited.

My blog stats have blown off the Richter scale and I thought...this is it...fame at last...I have found the secret ingredient that is going to make me the world's number one midwifery and education your heart out, Problogger.

When I looked at my stats it became clear that the one post I wrote about the upcoming Super 14 season and my participation in the Telecom Virtual Rugby was attracting all the attention. Then I realised that this was because the Telecom site was 'down' for some reason and assume that people are trying to find out why.

So, if you have found my blog because you're an ardent rugby fan - welcome! If you're a midwife and ardent rugby fan, you are especially welcome!

If you are a Waratahs fan, then be prepared to be very sad this weekend because the Highlanders are going to thrash them at Carisbrook this weekend ...I hope!

PS: The Telecom website is now up and running again so you have a few more hours to fill in your predictions for this week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Struggling with my ePortfolio format

I am struggling with my ePortfolio format already. I have chosen to use Wikispaces for reasons I have written about. But I just cannot seem to be able to do what I want with it. What I want to do is:
  • have a main page with a list of certain activities;
  • with each activity (when appropriate), I wish to link to an individual page where I write more detailed information with my personal reflection but...
  • I do not want this reflection page to show up on my navigation/index page.
Does this make sense?

But I just cannot seem to be able to work out if I can do that with Wikispaces.

Now this may be because I have not followed the instructions properly. But if it is not possible to do what I want on Wikispaces, then maybe I need to look at another ePortfolio platform before I do anymore work. Damian Bariexca has recommended Wikidot. Whereas, Alan at Science of the Invisible is getting into Windows Live SkyDrive. I do not really want to learn another platform at this stage and I do not want to get involved with WindowsLive because I have all the web services I want through other providers. Having said that, the midwifery students at Otago Polytechnic do have access to WindowsLive so that may be the logical platform for them to use.

But...maybe I need to re-think my format and do things another way which allows me to present all my material including the reflection and outcomes, but in a way that the reader does not feel is too laborious to follow.

So, any suggestions would be very gratefully received. Whatever I do, it has to be easy and not too time-consuming.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Where babies come from

Where babies come from

What do you have to do to get your kids to leave home?

To be honest, the title of this post is a little misleading - it probably should be 'what do you have to do to get your kids to leave you in peace!?'

My darling girl left home in December to go flatting with mates and start university this month. She's moved to a flat about 10 minutes drive away. She's excited because she has got away from mum and dad nagging. I'm excited because I have her bedroom for a study.

But I swear I do more running around after her now than I ever did! Yesterday, it was over to give her chocolate cake and left-over lasagna for the freezer. The day before, I had to bring her home for TLC because she wasn't feeling very well. Two days before that, it was driving her around so she could do her shopping.

I'll just have to look forward to payback and she has to look after me when I'm old and decrepit!

Image: 'And Gone....'

Midwifery recruitment drive in UK

The shortage of midwives isn't just a problem in New Zealand. In the UK, non-practicing midwives are being offered ₤3000 to go back into practice.

But is it enough to throw money at midwives and health professionals to encourage them to stay working in the health service or are retention problems more complex than that? What about the influences of work patterns and flexibility, work load and practices, sustainability, litigation, stress, job satisfaction and environmental culture - all very important influences on a midwife's employment choices.

Considering the average age of a midwife is 45-50, the global health service is going to have a very serious problem on its hands in 10 years when many midwives start to retire.

Meanwhile... ₤3000 in the bank...tempting?! Might have to dust off my UK registration certificate!

Image: 'moneybags'

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 21 & 22

I'm still working on Day 21 of the 31 Day Blog challenge so have skipped to Day 22 which involves reinforcing for new readers what this blog is about and how to use it.

I have done this only very recently and have developed a link at the top of the side bar on the right: About this blog. If there is any information you think I should include in my 'about' post, please let me know.

Image: 'Girasoli'

Google electronic health records

This is interesting: Google is working with the Cleveland Health Clinic, USA, to devise a system of electronic health records. At the moment, this is a pilot study. But if the system is successful, this has huge implications for the standardization of medical health records through out the world.

What are your thoughts about this? Would you like to have access to your health records? How would you feel about having your own electronic health records? What would your concerns be? What do you feel are the advantages?

Image: 'Filing'

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Place of birth: The next MIDIRS online seminar

The next MIDIRS online seminar is presented by Soo Downe who is a UK midwife very involved with promoting normal birth. The seminar is entitled: Place of Birth

Date: 24/04/2008, Time: 14.00 GMT

This seminar will be recorded so you can listen to it if you miss it live.

Information from the MIDIRS website.

Invitation to midwifery meeting in Second Life

Just a reminder about Carolyn's meeting that she is organizing in Second Life. Midwives, students and educators are very cordially invited to meet Carolyn and I in Second Life to network and learn more about Second Life. You are also very warmly invited if you are a Second Life 'expert' - we need all the help we can get!

I am extremely excited about this because I am still a bit of a non-believer. So I am looking forward to meeting colleagues and exploring how Second Life can be used to facilitate communication and collaboration in the midwifery context. Just hope the technology works on the night!

More details from from Carolyn:

Our midwives and midwifery educators meeting on Koru Island in Second
life is this Sunday. We will be meeting in a New Zealand bush setting,
with New Zealand bird song in the background. We have a large screen
available for a brief introductory presentation before we discuss your
ideas and questions about Second Life.

Sunday 2nd of March
United Kingdom -- 0800hrs
Perth WA -- 1700hrs
Brisbane -- 1800hrs
Sydney -- 1900hrs
New Zealand -- 2100hrs
Second life time -- 2400 hrs 0000 hrs or (12 midnight)

Here is a link to world times for the meeting.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Deciding on a format for my ePortfolio

Choosing a portfolio platform

I have decided to develop an ePortfolio for several reasons which I wrote about yesterday. A further impetus to get going on this project came from Michele Martin in her post "Job Searching the Web 2.0 Way: Setting up an Online Portfolio". In this post, Michele talks about using Wikispaces as the platform for a working portfolio. I have decided to take her advice because Wikispaces is free and relatively easy to use. I know there are a number of ePortfolio platforms as discussed by 'Science of the Invisible' but I do not have the time or inclination at the moment to explore these in any great depth. I believe that eventually the various health regulatory councils in New Zealand will develop their own portfolio platforms such as dentistry. However, as Michele reminded me yesterday, keeping my own ePortfolio allows me to maintain 100% control over what and how I write.

Deciding on a format

My initial format for my ePortfolio has been based around functions or activities such as work experience, presentations, publications and so on. Then Michele reminded me of the other option of basing it around competencies or skills. Knowing that the trend currently is for employers and organizations to take a competency-based approach to recruitment, employment and review, I am wondering if I should do the same with my portfolio. I am still undecided about this.

Integrating Reflection into my ePortfolio

Reflecting on one's experience is a vital part of a portfolio and is what makes it more than a CV or resume. This is where learning occurs, and needs for further development are identified (Hull & Redfern, 1996). But at this point I am a little unsure about how to integrate my reflection in a crisp, succinct way that does not bore the reader to tears and generate too much material for readers to wade through before they get to the information they are looking for.

One way to do this is to integrate my blog with my portfolio ie use my blog to reflect on the activities I am describing in my portfolio. At the same time my blog post becomes an artifact that can be incorporated into my portfolio. At the moment I am writing about activities in the wiki page and putting my reflections in the 'discussion' page. But I agree with Michele who felt I should make my reflections visible on the activities page and invite comments in the discussion page.

What is clear to me is that this is going to take a little sorting and gives real meaning to the phrase 'living document'. So any feedback about how I should construct my portfolio and what works well will be gratefully received.


Hull, C & Redfern, L. (1996). Profiles and Portfolios. A guide for nurses and midwives. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press.

Image: 'Golden Morning Reflections'

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reasons for developing my ePortfolio

Yesterday I made a start on a project that has been on my mind for some time which I have a feeling is going to be just as time consuming and challenging as the 31 Day Blog Challenge: developing my ePortfolio.

There are a number of reasons I have started this project.

1. I am required to have a portfolio as part of my professional requirements as a midwife in New Zealand.
  • I have had a 'paper' portfolio for some years but I have not updated it properly for some time. So I think I will put my energy into developing an electronic version because that will suit my purposes as midwife, teacher and researcher far better than a paper one.
  • I am due to be audited by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand any time soon so I need to be prepared for that - a random selection of midwives is chosen each year to be audited to ensure they are fulfilling their professional requirements - odds are that it is me soon.
2. I am coordinating two papers (undergraduate and postgraduate) where I am requiring students to develop their portfolios and write reflections on how they went about it.
  • It is not a requirement that the portfolios are electronic and I suspect no one will go that way. However, I want to be able to show them what an ePortfolio can look like and how it functions.
  • As our midwifery program at Otago Polytechnic develops into a blended delivery program, ePortfolios have been mentioned in passing. This is my opportunity to explore the concept so I am a lot more knowledgeable when the time comes to discuss where they fit into our curriculum and teaching.
3. An ePortfolio will connect well with my blog.
  • One of my aims for developing this blog is to use it as a means of getting my name known in professional midwifery and education circles. So I started off putting a lot of professional details on it. But as I have worked through the 31 Day Blog Challenge I have decided that I need an additional place other than my blog to publish my professional details such as my publications.
  • My blog can continue to be the place where I reflect on the activities I put in my ePortfolio, but what I suspect will happen is that the two things will intertwine.
4. I need a decent portfolio for my career development and advancement.
  • Having an electronic version will be so convenient as many of the things I have to do to maintain and advance my teaching career is electronically based eg yearly performance review and PBRF portfolio.
This is the beginning of a series of posts as I work my way through the issues of developing an ePortfolio and using it for both teaching and professional purposes. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who either has an ePortfolio, uses them in teaching or has any suggestions about how I can develop mine.


Stewart, S. 1999. Midwifery standards review in New Zealand; a personal review. British Journal of Midwifery, August, 7 (8): 511-514.

Stewart, S. 2000. Professional Portfolios: a necessary evil? New Zealand College of

Midwives Journal, June, 22: 23-24.

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 20

Day 20 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge involves running a survey of my readers asking them what they think of my blog and what suggestions they have for how I can improve it. This seems to be an ongoing thing for me so I have decided ( in the same way as Sue Waters did when she undertook this challenge) to put this off for the time being - I feel like I need the blog to settle - and do it in a few weeks time.

Having said that, if you have any feedback about this blog ie how it looks and the content, please let me know.

Meanwhile, in preparation for Day 21, I would like you to consider if you would like me to make you famous - the challenge involves writing about one of my readers and making him/her 'famous' - so if you would like me to mention you in my next challenge, please let me know either in the comments or by email.

Image: 'Eye See You'

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tips for new student midwives: managing your life

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.
2. Network, network, network...with midwives, fellow students, doctors, lecturers, social agencies and anyone connected with midwifery and health. This may include attending staff meetings or education sessions at the local hospital; joining your professional body such as the New Zealand College of Midwives and attending the local meetings; joining consumer organizations such as the local branch of the Home Birth Association or La Leche League; attending professional conferences.

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 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 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'

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 19

Thank goodness today's activity for the 31 Day Blog Challenge is an easy one - respond to the comments left on your blog.

I have always been meticulous about this and it does make a huge difference to the reader's experience. I have found this from my own experience of reading other people's blogs. For example, Sue Waters, Michele Martin and Grainne Conole always respond to my comments either on their blogs or on mine. This makes me feel that they are a. reading my comments and b. value my input whether I am agreeing or disagreeing with them. Much more importantly, this dialogue as inevitably led to some sort of learning or collaboration for me.

For example, I wrote a post about the layout of this blog. Sue responded with some advice about how to add RSS feeds and search facilities. Not only was I able to take up her advice which has increased the number of people who subscribe to this blog but I have been able to pass on that advice to other people.

Having said that, I only have a very small number of comments to respond to. When you have an extremely popular blog like Skellie, it must be extremely time consuming - oh to have that problem!

Image: 'Climate Change Protest'

Friday, February 22, 2008

31 Day Blog Challenge - My sneeze page

I looked at Day 18 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge but wasn't really sure what a sneeze page was so was really pleased when Sue Waters cleared things up for me in the comment she wrote following my post.

Because of the format of Blogger, I am unable to produce a separate page that gives the reader information about the blog and links to my 'best' posts. So I have chosen to follow the format that Cammie Bean used.
  • I wrote my 'sneeze' post which tells readers about my blog, how to comment and subscribe to the blog.
  • I have linked it to a section in the side bar - About This Blog
This feels a much better format.

Sarah's Musings

My name is Sarah Stewart and I am a project manager, researcher, educator, midwife, and PhD candidate. I am very interested in how we educate and support health professionals both at an undergraduate level and once they are in practice. There is a growing global recruitment and retention problem in all health professions, and I think it is vital that we address this problem now. One of the ways we can do that is by personal education and development, which can be facilitated by social networking tools ie Web 2.0.

The aim of the blog is to discuss issues facing health professionals regarding education, professional development,mentoring and life-long learning. It aims to explore the issues of using Web 2.0, both for personal learning and also as a teaching tool. And finally, it aims to be a resource for health professionals, and anyone else interested in learning, teaching and health.

Leaving comments on my blog

  • Feedback or comments are really important to me so feel free to say anything from a short 'I agree' or longer 'I totally disagree and think you talk a load of rubbish!'.
  • Look at the end of a post and click onto the small 'comment' label. A new window will open where you can read other comments as well as leave your own comment. Write what you want to say in the box. Be anonymous if you wish.
  • You do not have to have a 'blogger' account to be able to comment on this blog.
  • Once you are happy with what you have written, click onto 'publish'.
  • If you want your comment to be private, please email me.
  • I respond to all comments and emails.
  • I will keep any information you give me including your email address confidential unless you give me permission to publish it.
  • You can keep a track of your comments on blogs using co.mments.

What to do if you are enjoying this blog and want to read my posts regularly

You can do one of several things if you want to receive regular updates of my blog.

  • You can 'subscribe' to this blog by email. To do this, put your email address in the orange box on the right of this blog. Regular updates will then be sent to you by email.
  • You can 'subscribe' to this blog by RSS (Really Simple Syndication). To do this, click on the orange 'subscribe now' button on the right of this blog, and follow the instructions.
  • You can sign up to Google Reader, which is a RSS Reader and allows you to keep up to date with your favorite web sites and blogs.
You can also contact me:
Hope you enjoy this blog and find something of interest or benefit. Don't forget to drop me a comment to say 'hello'. Thank you.

My comments policy
  • I genuinely welcome your comments, whether you agree with my posts or not. Debate is healthy and we can all learn from it.
  • However, this blog is 'family friendly' and any comments that are rude, demeaning, offensive or inciteful will be deleted or edited.
  • Discussion about the principles of health care practice is welcome but attacks on the practice of an individual health practitioner will not be tolerated even if the HP appears to be an idiot - remember, there is always two sides to every story.
  • In order to promote a culture of learning and debate on this blog, no personal attacks are permitted in this blog’s comments. You may question or argue the content, but not attack the blogger, nor any other commenters. Failure to respect fellow participants on this blog could result in removal and blocked access.
Last modified: 29th December 2008

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 18

Day 18 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge involves creating a sneeze page or post. This is a page/post that drives people deep in your blog, encouraging people to look at past posts - a sort of summing up of your 'good' work.

I have been avoiding this challenge for a few days because it takes a deliberate plan and I have been focusing on my tips for student midwives. However, in my last post about communication, I endeavored to direct people to previous posts about Twitter.

So this weekend I aim to write a very deliberate post that attracts readers to past posts. Any suggestions for how I can do this? Has there been any past posts you have enjoyed that you think other readers might be interested in?

Image: 'AAchhee'

Student midwives working with women

Following my last couple of posts which gave advice to student midwives about dealing with academic and clinical work, I was interested in what advice the general public would suggest. So I asked my Twitter network what they thought was important for student midwives to remember when they worked with women and their families.

The crunch of the replies was that the ability to communicate was vital. Students (and midwives, for that matter) must work in partnership with women. This means never talking down to women or using language that cannot be understood. It also means being empathetic, non-judgmental and understanding of the experiences of women.

Thank you to those who replied to my Twitter request.

What do you think? What do you think are the important aspects of communication that student midwives need to remember?

Image: 'Clouds of the Sun'

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tips for new student midwives: working in clinical placements

Yesterday, I talked a little about how to manage your academic studies. Today, I'd like to leave you with just a few tips for managing your learning in the clinical setting, in no particular order of importance or relevance.

1. Look after your physical self. In particular, take care of your back.

I have written about this before because I know a significant number of 'older' midwives whose quality of life at work and outside is severely affected by back injury. Do not lift women without the proper equipment and training. Make sure that any bending over a sustained time is done in an ergonomic way.

Make sure you have plenty of food and drink to keep you going, especially at long births.

When you are attending a woman who is having a long labour, make sure you have regular breaks even if the midwife isn't. What she does is her call - you will not be able to function properly if you are overly tired.

2. Pay attention to your appearance.

Wear light, cool clothes when you work with women in labour - it gets very hot in hospital birthing rooms. If you wear mufti, keep the g-strings and skimpy tops at home. They look unprofessional and are distracting to those you work with, colleagues and families.

3. Be prepared for the theory-practice gap.

After ten years of being a midwifery educator and post-registration student for 16 years, I still am hearing examples of midwives working in a way that is not evidence-based. I do not want to go into the reasons why, in this post - maybe another time. However, you must be prepared for this. Don't ever stop questioning and leading by example - one of the main drivers behind my move to evidence-based practice was by watching and listening to student midwives.

4. Do not ignore the 'old battle axes' who seem to have been around for ever - I think I am probably in that category now!

I can think of a number of midwives I have met over the years who would fit that category. Sometimes these midwives can be darn-right scary, but invariably they have amazing experiences and stories to learn from. They are great people to learn 'tricks of the trade' from.

5. Make the most of all learning opportunities, both positive and not so positive.

Be enthusiastic and interested. Question, but do not be arrogant or critical. Be respectful and non-judgmental, of colleagues and families.

6. Make use of the support structures that are put in place by your educational institution. Being able to reflect on your experiences and learning away from the clinical environment is an important part of the learning process.


I could go on and on about this but will stop there. What do you think about these tips? Are they fair comments or am I barking up the wrong tree? What tips or comments would you add?

If you are a non-midwife/student, what would you see as being important for a student to consider if she was working with you and your family?

Image: 'IMG_8118'

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tips for new student midwives: academic studies

Here in the southern hemisphere, we are just starting our new academic year. And following my recent post on student midwives and their blogs, I have been thinking about what tips I would pass on to new student midwives. The tips I came up with seem to fall into three categories which I will turn into separate posts over the next few days: academic, clinical and life management.

So as far as the academic aspect of midwifery education goes, here are my tips:

1. Read, read, read! Reading will broaden your knowledge and gives depth to your academic writing. Even when you are pressed for time and reading seems to be a luxury that you cannot afford, it pays off in the end. Get into the habit of spending a couple of hours every month looking through the latest journals and books in the library, as well as online resources.

2. Have a critical friend who looks at your work from both a midwifery perspective and also as an editor. Submitting work that has spelling, grammar and punctuation errors influences the marker in a negative way - even if the content is great, presentation errors will lose you marks.

3. Don't procrastinate! Manage your time so that you are not working on assignments right at the last minute - in this case, it's a matter doing what I say, not what I do! Every time you get an extension, you put pressure on future work. If you leave things to the last minute, you will not present quality work and will not be able to cope with last minute hold ups like illness, computer break down or a call out to a pregnant woman.

4. Make sure you stick to your institution's reference guidelines - I know it seems ridiculous that lecturers get hung up on where you put one little full stop, but it is a means to preventing plagiarism. I have found that using a reference manager like Endnote is great for organizing and recording my references.

5. Do not ever be be tempted into plagiarism because it is viewed as a heinous crime by academic institutions. This includes repeating/copying your own work from assignment to assignment.

What other tips would you pass on to midwifery students to help them with their studying?

Image: 'Recent Ancient Learning'

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Midwives in Second Life: meeting details

For few weeks now I have been talking about Second Life, which is a virtual world and how it can be used in midwifery education, professional development, communication and collaboration.

Carolyn is developing a workshop for midwives and any one else interested in Second Life and she has finalized the details.

Day: Sunday 2nd March
Time: 21.00 New Zealand Time
Place: Koru Island.

For more details either contact me or Carolyn.

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Days 16 & 17

Day 17 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge is to run an advertising campaign in Stumbleupon, which is a social networking/bookmarking web site. As I do not have any money to fund such an endeavor, I'm giving this challenge a miss. But I am interested to hear if any of you use Stumbleupon and what you think of it.

Back to Day 16. This involves creating a heat map of a page of my blog. It is a way for me to see how people use my blog, what they click onto and what pages they visit. It is another way of looking at how people use the blog in an effort to attract people to 'stay' and subscribe. Whilst one's blog statistics do this, the heat map is an interesting pictorial tool.

To make a heat map, I have used Crazy Egg, which is a program that allows you to watch up to 4 pages free of charge. Not sure if I am going to use this in a constructive way, but it is fun to play with.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blogs for student midwives

I was talking the other day about midwifery blogs and promised I would point out some blogs written by midwifery students. So if you are a midwifery student, you may find it really useful to hook up with fellow students who are going through the same agony...I mean joys... as you are.

I have found it absolutely fascinating to read about the experiences of student midwives in other countries, both in terms of their curriculum and their personal stories. It has given me a greater appreciation of the program we provide at Otago Polytechnic as well as some ideas for my own teaching.

As for students, the advantages of blogging for you is that you get to meet students who live and work in different places/contexts who can share ideas and knowledge, which can be especially useful as you get a sense of the midwifery profession both at home and internationally. Midwifery is a surprisingly small world, so links and friendships you make now will stand you in good stead for years to come.

Minority Midwifery Student
is a black student working her way through a program that is run in the USA. Her blog is very interesting as she works through issues of race and midwifery, which should particularly resonate with Maori midwives here in New Zealand. Emory Student Midwife is another American student.

Lil is a student in Brisbane who has just started her midwifery diploma. Lil is already a nurse so it will be interesting to see how she finds midwifery compared to nursing. I had to laugh at one of her posts in which she lists her budget - I have just been through the same exercise with my daughter who is just about to start university.

Midwifery is catching is also an Australian student who has very clear ideas about being a midwife in a medicalised world. She is very challenging of so-called 'routine' midwifery and medical procedures which I am really enjoying.

More blogs are ornery dandelion and Student Midwife, UK who has even more links to student blogs such as Births are for women and Polly in New Zealand.

Good luck to these students and every other student midwife. If you know of any other blogs written by student midwives, please let me know.

Image: 'Coming Back from Midwifery School'

Don't let the bed bugs bite!

I have just had a great weekend away in Auckland with my husband. We went to a wedding and caught up with some old friends who we have not seen for years.

The only thing I am not happy about is that we stayed at a cheap and cheerful bed and breakfast hostel, and we have come away covered by bites from bed bugs or fleas or something of that elk. I know it that it isn't anything else because the bites are in places that do not usually see day light! Must go and get some calamine lotion!

Image: 'Elephant Seal Scratch'

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Midwives and daughters

Last year I wrote about my daughter who was considering the possibility of being a midwife. At the time, I was conflicted as to whether I thought that was a good idea or not. In the meantime, she decided that being on call would interfere too much with her social life and has signed up for an arts degree, in which she is taking at least two gender studies papers.

But the other day we were looking at the birth videos I have recently posted here. I was trying to explain various things but she intuitively knew what I was going to say and was able to work things out without any guidance from me. She still has a very keen interest in working with women and families and instinctively knows things, so maybe she will come to midwifery when she is a little older.

This led me to wonder how many daughters follow their mothers in midwifery these days? How many of you either had a mother who was a midwife or has a daughter following in your footsteps? How has your mother inspired you to be a midwife, or not, as the case may be?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A very different birth video

Knowing how interested I am in collecting birth videos as teaching tools for midwifery students, my husband pointed me to the BBC website where David Attenborough talks about his latest natural history series: Life in Cold Blood.

I have been absolutely fascinated by many of the film clips but my favorite is of an anaconda giving birth. I thought all snakes originate from eggs, but this anaconda births her babies like mammals. As usual, the patience of the film makers is astounding.

This film clip has no real relevance to this blog. But it did make me stop and wonder at this amazing world we live in and the life that we so often are either ignorant of or take for granted.

Image: 'Anaconda'

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 15

I have been avoiding today's challenge which is to make my most popular posts 'sticky'. This avoidance has been caused somewhat by not really understanding what you have to do to make your blog 'sticky' - to attract people to subscribe to your blog.

I have installed a RSS and email subscriber and link all my posts to other posts in the blog. I have seen a small but steady increase in the numbers of return visitors to this blog. And I can now proudly lay claim to 2 subscribers via Feedburner.

So if you have any suggestions as to how I can make you 'stick' to this blog, I'd love to hear from you.
Image: 'Microformats'

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another birth video - 'hands off' approach

Here's another great birth video. The reason I like this one is because the midwife keeps a 'hands off' approach - in other words, does not fiddle, touch, put any sort of pressure on the baby's head, or interfere in any way.

I have removed the actual video and have provided the link only, because the video is very graphic. Having said that, it is a wonderful video to show children and young people so that they can learn about birth.


As you can see, I have put the video back into my blog again - have a look at the comments to see how people feel about me posting this video on my blog. I think I'll have to have a poll about this issue.

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Days 13 and 14

It was a relief that Day 13 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge was to do with making money from your blog, so I had the day off from that challenge.

Day 14 is to make an analysis of my 'competition'. This is to help ensure I find a niche for my blog and am not copying other bloggers. It is also a strategy to help strengthen networks with bloggers who have similar interests.

I decided not to even think about looking at education blogs because there are so many out there, especially those who are working their way through issues of using social networking and Web 2.0 in education. The aim of this blog is not to 'compete' because I know I am repeating themes that many others are talking about. I blog about these issues because it helps me process my own learning about them, and if people choose to interact with me as I do that, all to the better.

Midwifery is the other area of interest I belong in. There are a number of key blogs in this area.

Sagefemme is probably the blog that is referred to most frequently. It certainly made a considerable difference to Carolyn's visitor numbers when she was mentioned on Sagefemme's blog. Sagefemme is a homebirth midwife and birth activist in the USA and she attracts the most comments when she writes about natural childbirth and issues that are impeding midwives from practicing with a midwifery philosophy.

Navelgazing Midwife is another American midwife which is in a lot of blog rolls. She writes a mix of things from issues that face birthing women to personal stories. Again, she appears to get the most comments when she write about birthing issues such as her post about how sore Christina Aguilera was feeling after her cesarean section.

Another blog that comes up on Google search is Midwife with a Knife. It is not a blog that crops up in midwifery blogging circles, probably because the author is an obstetrician. The reason I have looked at this blog is because she appears to get a reasonable number of readers, if her comments are anything to go by. And I am very intrigued about the title of the blog and look forward to reading more about why she sees herself as a midwife.

Midwifery in the NHS in the UK is the theme of the blog by A Midwife's Muse. I suspect her readership is not as big as Sagefemme but again, the posts that attract the most comments are those about midwifery issues such as recruitment and retention rather than personal posts.

Other commonly cited midwifery blogs include Meconium Happens, Mamma Mid(Wife) Madness, At Your Cervix, and The Midlife Midwife. It appears that the posts that attract the most attention are the issues that affect midwifery practice and birth activism. In other words, anything that is controversial/worrying for midwives such as the growing rate of cesarean sections or litigation.

So what does that mean for this blog. Well, I think birth activism is covered especially in the UK and USA and as I have said before, that is not really an area that really interests me in this blog. However, apart from Carolyn, there is no one else that I can see who is talking about midwifery in New Zealand, so that clearly is a niche for me to exploit (if that's what I really want to do).

Midwifery education is one of the main themes of this blog, and as yet I have found very few midwives writing about education, which is great news for me. The only other midwifery education blog I have come across apart from Carolyn is Midwifery Education, hosted by Elinor Clarke. She has literally just started this blog so it will be interesting to see how it develops.

So to summarize this analysis:
  • posts about birth activism attracts readers but I have made a conscious decision that I do not want to write those posts on a regular basis
  • no 'competition' from blogs about midwifery in New Zealand
  • very few blogs about midwifery education, which clearly is the 'niche' that I want to build on.
Was this activity a waste of time? In one way it was because it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. But having that conformation does help guide me when I am thinking about what information and resources would be helpful to post about.

I have not talked about the growing number of blogs by student midwives who are charting their way through midwifery education. This will come in another post soon.

How do you feel about this strategy of looking at blogging? Is it a useful activity or should I really be concentrating on doing what I want to do rather than worry about other people?

Have you come across any great midwifery blogs that I have not mentioned, especially midwifery education?

Image: 'Rainbows cut the sky in two (or three)'

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Meeting midwives in Second Life

It looks like Carolyn's plans for a midwifery meeting in Second Life are coming to fruition. It will be the first weekend of March - when I know for sure, I'll post the date/time here.

We met an English midwife the other day and she helped us make a midwifery group, so if you'd like to join us, you'll find us easily through the search facility.

I now know how to change night to day, and have worked out how to use the audio functions - all good stuff!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Writing a proposal for Open Access midwifery education

I have been asked to write a proposal to make two courses Open Access that we run at Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery. Both courses are aimed at overseas midwives who emigrate to New Zealand and who are required by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand to complete modules that will prepare them for practice in New Zealand: 'Pharmacology and Prescribing', and 'New Zealand Midwifery for Registered Midwives'. They have to have completed these courses before they are given full midwifery registration here.

Otago Polytechnic is one of several institutions in New Zealand that run these courses. Both courses are delivered online in BlackBoard, which means they are only accessible to the enrolled students. The Pharmacology and Prescribing course also attracts New Zealand midwives but on the whole, the number of enrolled students are very small.

The courses are continuous or roll-over enrollment: they deliver material which the student works her way through, and the student's knowledge is assessed by assignments which she submits for marking. There are also formative worksheets that the student can work through for her own learning and development. There is little or no interaction with lecturers, and because the enrollments are continuous rather than a fixed time frame, there is no interaction between students.

I have to admit I do not know much about Open Access apart from my own personal experience of joining an Open Access Course. I know that Otago Polytechnic has an Open Access policy but haven't really looked at it in any great detail. So here's my chance to find out more.

I have been asked to include in my proposal:
  • what the advantages are;
  • what would be involved with moving to Open Access
  • why would Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery want to do this?
My initial thoughts are that it:
  • would give midwives free access to information that will inform their practice and professional development
  • may help increase our enrollments, although I am skeptical about this
  • will help us to maintain our claim that we are 'a leader in midwifery education' because as far as I can see, there are very few Open Access midwifery courses available
  • will provide research/evaluation opportunities and outputs for us as we monitor the success or otherwise of this venture
  • will allow midwives to prepare their assignments before they emigrate, which will save them time when they get here. Many midwives find they are very busy settling into their new homes/jobs when they arrive and it takes them ages to complete these courses.
How would I do it? Not too sure. Would probably move all the material over to a blogging platform.

So I would be grateful for any suggestions or feedback about what to include into my proposal, including any great references or research.

Is Open Access really as desirable or achievable as it is being mooted at the moment?

What evidence is there to support the idea that people interact with Open Access education material for their own professional development and learning?

What is the best way of presenting Open Access material for people who have only basic computer skills?

Do you know of any Open Access midwifery or health courses?

Image: 'Free 2 Run'

Twitter and Midwives

Was just told about the new Twitter search device by mbogle - so thought I would try and find other midwives who use Twitter. As far as I could see, I am the only midwife using Twitter. Or at least, the only one who has put midwife in my profile.

What did interest me was the number of people who talk about their interactions with their midwives, things like: 'saw my midwife today', 'contracting 1:5, think I'll call my midwife', 'baby born 2 hours ago' and so on. Makes you think about how much you are on show as a midwife.

The other thing that really interested me was that Midwifery Today, a major international midwifery magazine sends out regular updates via Twitter as does March of Dimes, which is a huge web site and organization that deals with birth issues and research. If credible organizations like these are using Twitter as a communication vehicle, how long will it be before others follow?

Image: 'Twittermania'

Twins and Waterbirth

Here is the most amazing video of a waterbirth I have ever seen - and it is twins!

The only thing I would say is that I would be concerned about the amount of handling of the babies he is doing whilst they are under water. There is a risk that a baby will be stimulated into taking a breath whilst she is still submerged, so I like to keep my hands off the baby as much as possible until the head is clear of the water.

This is a video of a woman giving birth so may not be suitable for all viewers.

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 12

I am soldiering on with the 31 Day Blog Challenge and am now on Day 12. Today's task is to introduce myself to another blogger as part of a networking strategy.

So having delved into my statistics yesterday, I decided to go and say hello to anyone who showed up in my stats. To my surprise I found Mal Burns, who is a web designer. He mentioned my post about midwives and Second Life on Twitter - how cool is that!?

Image: 'Hello3' Major Clanger

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Things I have learned from...people

Robert Hruzek's writing challenge of the month at New Middle Zone Musings is what I have learned from people.

I have learned from people the importance of not being judgmental or jumping to conclusions. Often first impressions are not correct and that people are a lot different to what you first think. Just because a person comes from a different background, dresses or speaks differently does not mean that he or she cannot be hugely influential in your life. I have learned from people that I must be open at all times so that I can learn more from people.

Image: 'Mankind' √Čole

Wet nursing is fashionable again

Apparently, wet nursing is in vogue again, particularly amongst the rich in the USA.

My only experience of wet nursing was in Maori family. The new mother was unable to feed her baby because she was very sore. So her sister, who had a 3 - 4 month old baby, fed the new baby until the mother was able to resume again. She went on the successfully breastfeed for many months.

I was challenged there for a while but the experience was a great learning opportunity for me; to really question myself about my values and beliefs about breastfeeding.

How do you feel about wet nursing - would you be a wet nurse or use a wet nurse's services? Is it a good thing or just down right perverted?

ibu menyusui
Image: 'Terlena dalam Susuan Mamin'

Timely reminder about why I blog

Having just looked at how I can use my blog stats to grow my readership, I have just read a timely reminder from Michele Martin that blogging, for me anyway, is not about becoming famous (although that would be very nice!) but about adding value to your own life and those who read your blog. Michele's advice on blogging for learning is:
  • blog to add value for yourself
  • think about the process, not the finished product
  • do not fixate on getting a huge audience but rather concentrate on developing quality relationships with readers
  • don't be afraid to make mistakes
I have been so caught up in the 31 Day Challenge and trying to attract readers that I have lost sight of why I do this in the first place - echoing Kate Olson's post in which she is saying much the same thing. I love the 31 Day Challenge and am learning lots about how to improve my blog. But I must not lose sight of the fact that I want to improve my blog so it reads well and provides information, resources and opportunities for discussion, rather than it being a 'Sarah Stewart' advert.

Image: 'att blogging campaign' Sean Coon

31 Days to Building a Better Blog: Day 11

Day 11 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge is about looking at your blog's statistics. The information you can get from your statistics can help you develop a strategy for growing your blog.

I have to admit that I have been hooked on my statistics for months. I use Statcounter to monitor my blog. I hate it that Carolyn, my blogging partner in crime, has more visitors than me!

But having said that I have put this challenge off for a few days. The reason for this is because I feel rather inadequate and intimidated compared to bloggers such as Darren Rouse and Skellie, who talk about hundreds and thousands of subscribers, whereas I am averaging about 50-60 unique visitors per day. However, it was Kate Olson who brought me back to earth in her post 'blog and let blog' where she questioned the validity of the so-called 'rules' of blogging and concluded she was going to blog what and how she wanted - go Kate!

Needless to say, I cannot help being fascinated by the amount of information that is provided by statistics. For the last few weeks my most popular post has been about emigrating to New Zealand. This obviously has a very wide appeal beyond midwifery and education, although I only had one person leave comments. That has now been overtaken by the post about counting baby movements. It is clear that posts about pregnancy and birth attract a lot more readers than midwifery and education. But I do not want to write those sort of posts regularly - this is my conscious decision not to build a readership based on those theme of posts. The other posts that are always popular are anything about Facebook and Second Life.

I can look and see what blogs readers have come from and it has been useful to go back to those blogs and keep a relationship going with the blogger. Carolyn has had a significant number of visitors when she was mentioned by a very popular midwifery blogger Sagefemme. So it is worth getting noticed by 'famous' bloggers.

Looking at searches and key words that bring people here has not really helped me develop a blogging strategy because they tend to be very random. But generally, emigration, Facebook and Second Life seem to be the search terms that most frequently bring me visitors. So, maybe it is time to become a Second Life expert - NOT! It certainly is worth continuing the emigration theme.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Midwives in Second Life

Carilyn's plans for a midwifery meeting in Second Life are coming along. I think she is planning it to be about 24/25th February.

So if you are a midwife or student or anyone else for that matter, wanting to know about Second Life, keep an eye on Caroyn's blog for announcements. She has also posted some videos about how to orientate yourself to Second Life.

If you are an experienced Second Lifer willing to give us a hand, we'd love to hear from you.

Also, if you know of any islands that would be of interest to midwives or midwifery students and educators, we'd love to hear about them.

Super 14 Rugby: Telecom Virtual Rugby


Howrah! Its that time of year again - Super 14 Rugby! I am a great Highlanders fan and you'll see me shouting with the loudest at Carisbrook at home games.

But I am prepared for heart ache this year - the chances of the Highlanders even getting in the top 8 are probably as likely as me losing 3 stone in weight in the next week. Never mind, I am not a fair weather fan - I'll be there, win or lose!

The Telecom Virtual Rugby Competition starts again so if you want to see if you can beat me making predictions about the scores of the games, especially if you are fans of the Australian and South African teams, come and join me. You can find me as 'hototagogirl'.

Go the Highlanders!

Facebook Etiquette

Just love this 'tongue in cheek' blog about Facebook etiquette. The author is Maz Hardey who is just completing her doctorate looking at social media.

Image: 'ugly face'
Garry Nixon

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My first Jing video: Hanging out in Second Life

Here is my first attempt at making a video using Jing. It is quite easy to use - I just wish Second Life came as easy and intuitive.

I'm on the right (Petal Stransky) and Carolyn is on the left (Dacary Dumpling).

Fun with Jing

I am having great fun getting to know how to use Jing, courtesy of Kate Olson. Now I need to know how to make the image sharper and bigger.

Using moxibustion to turn a breech baby

Having a breech baby (coming bottom first) can cause a lot of stress because of the conflicting information about how birth the baby - cesarean section or natural birth. So it is much better if the baby turns so that he is coming head first. One of the ways to turn a baby is to use moxibustion - see the New Zealand Guidelines Group for more information.

Here is a video that explains moxibustion and how to use it.

Counting baby's movements

I thought I'd got to the stage where I'd seen it all, but this is the latest machine that you can buy from America - an electronic monitor that counts baby movements. You can also use it to count contractions.

I suppose pregnant women cannot count for themselves or use a pen and water to write it down?

Mind you, I don't suppose it is as bad as Tom Cruise having his own private ultrasound scan at home.

Suffice to say, it was designed by an obstetrician!

Thanks to The Baby Bump Project that alerted me to this.

Providing evidence-based mother- friendly maternity care

Here is a leaflet provided by the The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS): 10 Steps for Mother-Friendly Care.

Provided by Citizens for Midwifery, the leaflet outlines the 10 steps, discusses outlines medical practices that are not evidence based, and summarizes the advantages of birthing at home.

  • STEP 1: Offers all birthing mothers unrestricted access to birth companions, labor support, professional midwifery care.
  • STEP 2: Provides accurate, descriptive, statistical information about birth care practices.
  • STEP 3: Provides culturally competent care.
  • STEP 4: Provides the birthing woman with freedom of movement to walk, move, assume positions of her choice.
  • STEP 5: Has clearly defined policies, procedures for collaboration, consultation, links to community resources.
  • STEP 6: Does not routinely employ practices, procedures unsupported by scientific evidence.
  • STEP 7: Educates staff in nondrug methods of pain relief and does not promote use of analgesic, anesthetic drugs.
  • STEP 8: Encourages all mothers, families to touch, hold, breastfeed, care for their babies.
  • STEP 9: Discourages nonreligious circumcision of the newborn.
  • STEP 10: Strives to achieve the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to promote successful breastfeeding.
If you are a midwife, how does your midwifery practice rate against those steps?

If you are anyone other than a midwife, how does this rate against what you would want from a midwife or maternity service?

Image: 'Pat the Baby'