Thursday, February 28, 2013

6 tips for midwives on writing for publication

I was really pleased to hear the other day that I have had a paper about ePortfolio accepted for publication in a midwifery journal called "Women and Birth". It took nearly two years to write the paper and get it accepted, which has left me reflecting on my experience as an author over the last few years and come up with a few tips that you might want to consider if you're thinking of submitting a paper for publication. 

1. Start with something small and non-academic
Even now I remember the very first time I had something printed, and that was a letter to the editor of the Nursing Times in the UK. It was quick and easy to write, and the thrill I got from seeing my name in print was enough to motivate me to write more. If you are a midwife in Australia, send a short article to Midwifery News, which is the Australian College of Midwives' magazine - the editor, Rachel Smith is always happy to receive articles of about 500 words on any topic relevant to midwives. If you're not sure you can do that, then start off writing a considered comment on a blog or Facebook page...anything that will give you experience of putting some words together.

Why bother? The reason for that is because I think it is vital that midwives get their thoughts and work out into the public arena because it raises the profile of midwifery, and enhances our credibility with government and other organizations that we work with. The more visible we are, the more likely it is that we will be heard.

2. Find a mentor or critical friend
One thing I really wish I could do is "whip up" a paper in half a day and get it accepted in a top journal without as much as getting a hair out of place. Sadly for me, I find formal writing very difficult - I am prone to huge generalizations....take 50 words to say something that I could say in 5....and can never quite get to the theoretical depth that editors expect in academic journal articles. So I find it invaluable to have a mentor or critical friend who will critique my work, ask questions that helps me refine what I am saying and provide editorial support. I was blessed to have Maxine Alterio help me with my ePortfolio paper. We went back and forth a number of times before the paper was ready for submission. Her feedback was challenging at times, but I knew it was worth responding because I would have a better product in the end.

3. Co-publish with another author who already has writing experience and has published articles 
I have written a number of articles with co-authors and benefited from their expertise and shared motivation and planning. I find it is particularly useful to work with others when I have a mental block, because usually the other writer has the clarity that I lack. However, it is worth negotiating boundaries, roles and even the order that the names appear on the article before you start writing, in order to prevent petty jealousies and academic rivalries getting in the way of the writing.

4. Have patience
Most academics you talk to these days will agree that the process of getting a paper published can be a lengthy one. Even if you are an established author you can expect to be asked to make alterations to your paper before it is accepted for publication. Sometimes, you even have to submit to two or three journals before you find one that will accept your paper. It is worth being patient and responding to editors' feedback, and don't take it personally when you are asked to make changes to your paper.

5. Know when to quit
I have a paper about eMentoring that I have been trying to publish since 2009, and the truth is that it is rubbish. After sending it to half a dozen (or so it seems) journals, and getting the same feedback...that it is rubbish...I have now given up and hit the delete button. Sometimes all you need to do is re-frame an article but other times, you just have to let go, and start again from scratch.

6. Volunteer to be a journal reviewer
One of the most useful things I have done that has helped me develop my writing skills is to be a reviewer for a journal. Being a reviewer helps you recognize what works and what doesn't work with other people's writing, which you are able to implement in your own writing.  Journals are always looking for reviewers - check out journals websites for information on how to apply.

If you want more information about writing for publication or a few tips and resources, have a look at the "How to write a paper in 6 weeks" project that I developed a couple of years ago.

Have you ever written an article or paper for publication? What tips would you pass on to new authors?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Looking for a virtual meeting room for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2013

This year is the fifth year of the free, online conference that I facilitate for midwives, the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. Up to now, Otago Polytechnic has kindly supported us and provided the virtual meeting room.  Last year we used Adobe Connect, and Otago Polytechnic has offered the room to us again this year. Unfortunately, we have become victims of our own success because this room does not have enough seats - the room has 100 seats and last year we had more than 100 people trying to attend sessions.

So...long story short...we're looking for someone to provide us with access to a virtual meeting room which we can use on the 5th May for 24 hours; have administration right so that we can organise the speakers; be able to access the room in the run up to the conference so we can support the speakers and participants to set up their technology, and practice using the room.

If you can help by providing us with the free use of a virtual meeting room, or know someone who can help us, please let me know. In return, we are extremely happy to advertise logos on all our resources and information materials, such as our website:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And we're off...planning the 5th Annual Virtual International Day of the Midwife, 5th May 2013

I cannot believe it, but this year is the 5th year I have been facilitating the online conference, The Virtual International Day of the Midwife, which is held on the 5th May; runs for 24 hours; free to attend; open to anyone interested in midwifery and childbirth.

VIDM 2013 Committee
We are delighted to have the following people on our committee this year:
Deborah Davis, University of Canberra, Australia
Mary Sidebotham, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Chris Woodhouse, Facilitator/Consultant, UK
Lorraine Mockford, Nova Scotia Community College, Canada
Sarah Bandasak, CPIT, New Zealand
Annette Dalsgaard Vilain, University College Lillebælt, Denmark
Linda Wylie, Midwife, UK
Jacob Theilgaard, Denmark

The VIDM 2013 committee met (a virtual meeting, needless to say) on the 12th February 2013. Here is the planning so far; please feel free to comment or leave ideas here, or email me: sarahstewart07(at)

1. What technology are we going to use for the meeting day?   
There are a number of options we can pursue. However, I am keen to keep things as familiar as possible- it isn't very helpful to us or participants if we keep using different technology every year, because it does take two or three years to become confident with using a particular technology. We also have materials on the wiki that we can re-cycle if we use Adobe or Elluminate, which saves time. The other very important factor to consider is that we need a meeting room that take more than 100 people - we had access to 100 seats last year and at times, this was not enough. We would prefer to use Adobe Connect or Elluminate/Collaborate for the VIDM, if we can. 
  • WebEx - Cisco are interested in sponsoring a meeting room for the VIDM with seats for app. 250 people. Disadvantages are thatWebEX is not a 'sexy' and dynamic as Adobe Connect or Elluminate, and we have never used it before.
  • Adobe Connect - We are familiar with Adobe Connect having used it last year. We will ask Otago POlytechnic if we can use theior facilitaties again, as long as they can provide more than 100 seats.
  • Elluminate/ Collaborate - We also may be able to access this via Lorraine Mockford.
2. Process for managing the speakers
  •  Mary has drafted an EOI for speakers with application template - committee to comment on it by the 16/2/13 before the final draft is accepted and disseminated to everyone's networks.
  • Disseminating EOI - to be sent as far and as wide as possible. Sarah S contact different international mailing lists, Annette with contact the ICM jisc mailing lists for Normal Birth, Research, and Education. Linda will contact Lesley Page (RCM), AIMS and ARM. We will record who is doing what, and our progress on the wiki.
  • How to judge EOI? Are we going to have criteria for the VIDM conference? Sarah S. will check up on last year's criteria. Mary will check up on ACM's criteria to see if we can adapt them. We need to keep in mind that the VIDM is not a scientific conference, but rather an unconference that aims to give people a chance to present who would otherwise not do so, and also to develop people's digital literacy skills. At the same time, we do want to maintain a level of quality so we remain a credible professional development activity.
  • Chris and Mary will work out the time frames for the management of the EOI and confirming speakers.
3. Opening speaker
  • Various suggestions were made, keeping in mind the time zones for when we start the conference.
  • Mary will contact Frances Day-Stirk because she is the president of the ICM, and ask her to be the opening speaker. Mary will try to find other options if Frances is not available.
4. Social media
  • Sarah Bandasak, Lorraine, Linda and Sarah S. will coordinate our social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook.
5. Opening and closing sessions
The time that we start will depend on the opening speaker, and when he/she can do it. However, we will start, as usual, in the morning on the 5th May based on New Zealand time.

6. Facilitators and Master Facilitators
We will postpone the decision on master facilitator and facilitator to next meeting when we have a better idea what our technology will be.

7. Time plan and plan of jobs
  • There are people who have already volunteered to help. We will co-opt them as and when we need them, but will keep the core committee as is so that it doesn't get too big and "unmanageable".
  • Sarah S. will do a time plan and circulate it.
8. Media release
Linda will work with Sarah S to develop a media release that we can all use to ensure consistency around the world - this will be stored on the wiki for easy access.

9. Sponsorship
Deborah has written a wonderful document on sponsorship but we have left it too late to enact this year. We do need to pursue this more actively once this year's conference is over - it would be fabulous to have our own virtual room that we can use every year without worry about access and seats.
10. Succession planning
  • Sarah S plans to step back for leading the facilitation of VIDM next year. Linda will work closely with Sarah S this year with the view of contributing more actively with the facilitation next year.
11. No other business

Monday, February 4, 2013

What to do with the saggy bits?

One of the downsides of losing 32kg of weight is that I am left with areas of saggy skin that I cannot do anything with. My age certainly doesn't help, and after two kids and a number of years of breastfeeding, there are areas of my body that have gone so far south that they'd need a major tilting of the world's axis to ever come right again.

Is there such a thing as a perfect body?
I have been reflecting on this issue of weight loss and the after math, and to be honest, I am surprised at how naive I have been. I thought that by losing weight, I'd be left with a "perfect" body. But the reality is, years of being over-weight and over-stretched has left its toll on my skin. This is an issue that is not addressed by TV shows such as "The biggest loser" - we always see participants wearing fabulous clothes and being very happy, but we never see how they deal with how they are left looking. I must admit, for the first time ever, I have fleetingly thought about plastic surgery to get rid of the tummy roll and baggy underarms that will never go.

Does weight loss make us happy?
The reality of weight loss and the perfect body is also one that has been addressed by Julia Kozerski. Julia is a young woman who lost over half her body weight and like me, felt she'd have the perfect body once she had lost weight. The reality left her feeling very depressed. She has documented her weight loss by photographs, and her very brave approach has started discussion about how we are marketed the myth that weight loss will give us the perfect body, and by association...the perfect life.   

Is plastic surgery an option?
I am thrilled that I have lost so much weight, because I am much healthier, and when I have clothes on, I do look much better. However, I also think that we must encourage realistic expectations about weight loss, and build into diet programs such as Weight Watchers, advice about how to deal with the aftermath of weight loss, especially in the more extreme cases.

As for me, as much as I am tempted by the thought of plastic surgery, I would never pluck up the courage to have it. So, instead, I continue to exercise and if all else fails, recommend the use of a good girdle! 

Have you ever lost a large amount of weight? What have been the downsides? How have you coped with the aftermath? What do you recommend for getting rid of saggy areas after weight loss?

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Midwives and telehealth

One of the projects I am currently working on is the Telehealth Support Project. This is a collaborative project that the Australian College of Midwives is involved with , alongside several nursing organisations, which is funded by the Australian Department of Health and Aging.

My involvement is supporting the development of an online education package which will support midwives to think about how they can implement telehealth into their practice, either in hospital or as private practicing midwives. This should be up and running by May. I am also involved in developing midwifery standards for telehealth practice.

Do you use telehealth in your practice? How do you use it? What has been your experiences? What would you like to see embedded into standards for telehealth practice?