After completing 6 weeks in my community placement, I had a lovely week off at the beginning of May and by that point it was much needed! I still find it unbelievable how much I have actually learnt within just 6 weeks of my first placement. Both of my mentors have been really supportive, and they just had the ability to know what I felt comfortable with and what I didn’t – as well as pushing and giving me the encouragement to try things I was unsure about.
I think one of the biggest tips I could give a new student on their first community placement, is to try and get one of the booking packs that they give out within your trust. Once you have one, go through every single leaflet and read through all of the main information – there is nothing worse than trying to explain what is in a leaflet and the key points of it when you haven’t even read it yourself. Not only is it good to know what you are explaining, but it really does expand your knowledge as well as allowing you confidently to discuss them with women and their partners.
I think the biggest challenge that I faced being on placement was the travelling, however everyone else is in the same situation as you. One of my flat mates has a 3 hour commute each way due to public transport so I can’t complain too much. It is very tiring though, especially with community as you are doing that 5 days a week – so another bit of advice, make the most of your free time! Do things which make you who you are, don’t forget the important things in life, and never feel guilty for spending time with your family and friends.
Looking back to the beginning of my community placement, I remember doing abdominal palpations and having no idea what I was feeling without having my mentors confirming and explaining them to me. However, it’s strange how quickly things just click into place. One day you feel like you’re never going to be competent and then all of a sudden it will make sense. Another tip – anything you are unsure of throughout the day (for me, it took ages to get my head around the screening process) keep asking your mentors questions. Reading from different resources also really helps to expand your knowledge.
I know I have mentioned it in my previous blog posts, but I thought I would consolidate all the clinical skills I have been able to do within the community:
- Booking appointments – includes gaining a full medical and obstetric history – as well as family history, going through all of the booking pack (maternity notes and leaflets), finding out the first day of the woman’s last period (LMP) as this helps to form a rough due date, screening tests, urinalysis, blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI).
- Full antenatal examination – enquiries with regards to any problems in the pregnancy, BP, pulse, urinalysis, abdominal palpation, auscultation of the fetal heart (FH) if over 16 weeks gestation, and performing the symphysis fundal height measurement if over 24 weeks (measurement of the abdomen to ensure baby is growing appropriately). Lastly, going through any leaflets relevant to her gestation, for example at the 28 weeks appointment discussing the whooping cough vaccine.
- Full maternal postnatal examination – includes assessment of emotional wellbeing as well as physical, ensuring that the woman’s breasts feel ok, lochia (blood loss), ensuring the uterus is appropriately palpated, offering an examination of any stitches down below – as well as caesarean wounds, urinating and opening bowels ok, and lastly – any signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Provide information on pelvic floor exercises, contraception, reducing the risk of cot death and signs of potentially life threatening conditions.
- Full newborn examination – ensure that the baby is feeding ok, whether breast or bottle and provide support when needed, assess the babies skin colour – any signs of jaundice? Ensure the eyes are clear and not sticky/inflamed, clear mouth – no signs of oral thrush, and inspect the umbilicus – whether the cord is still attached or not, this allows us to check for any early signs of infection.
This is a very basic list, and there are so many other aspects to consider as well, but I hope it gives you more of an idea of the things that we do in the community.
I have now been back at uni for 2 weeks and we have learnt so much about labour and birth, there is so much to take in but it’s all so interesting, and I love how everything ties in together one way or another. I start the birth unit In 3 weeks, so wish me luck – and fingers crossed the next time I write a blog will be when I’ve caught a baby.
The University of Manchester midwives have created a blog which shares tips and experiences from student midwives on placement. Find the blog here.
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