Last month we talked to the students behind the society at Huddersfield University, and this month we’re passing the mic over to the Swansea University Midwifery Society.
Launched in 2013, the society has gone from strength to strength, and their next study day later this month will focus on water birth.
We spoke to Anna Davies, a second-year student midwife at Swansea, about the society’s origins and activities.
How and why was the society created?
Annmarie Thomas created the society in 2013 with the backing of the university, the midwifery lecturing team, the Students Union and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). The inspiration to begin a society originated from membership within the RCM student forum. Annmarie, now in her third year, represents Welsh student midwives within the forum and attends regular meetings at RCM headquarters. The forum has representation from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and discusses challenges that students face whilst studying midwifery throughout the UK.
How does the society benefit its members?
Annmarie believes that having a society in place can bring many opportunities to students where they can really take ownership of their learning and direct it in a way that can support the current curriculum, keeping their knowledge fresh, up to date and evidence based. The society vastly improves communication between and within cohorts as well as improving relationships with the wider student community.
One of the key benefits that the society provides is collaborative approaches and improved relationships between students and midwifery lecturers. This is fundamental in ensuring that staff are able to recognise and identify the needs of students, take action on such needs, and therefore enhance mutual respect.
As student midwives our goal is obviously to complete our training, after which we will enter the competitive world of applying for jobs as qualified midwives. By being part of the society, students can become involved with extracurricular activities and improve their employability by demonstrating a commitment to wider issues. Annmarie believes in empowering students to be active in their own education; they can carry this forward into their careers and continue to learn and develop through sharing skills and experiences with their peers.
The society committee has worked hard since the society’s formation to support fellow students to hold study days, conferences and workshops, and to raise funds for local charities. The vision for the future of our society is exciting, every new member bringing with them fresh, innovative ideas that can grow and nurture our community of midwives-to-be.
As well as supporting local charities, does the society support any international charities?
Yes, we also support a charity in Ethiopia – Midwives@Ethiopia, which is a charity run by six UK-based midwives working with their partners in Ethiopia. The charity delivers training courses for midwife tutors, midwives and HEWs twice a year. It is committed to ongoing monitoring and evaluation to ensure culturally appropriate, research-based, achievable care for mothers and babies in southern Ethiopia. During our second or third year at Swansea University, students are encouraged to choose an elective placement.
Sarah Norris, who helps run Midwives@Ethiopia, is one of our midwifery lecturers and she takes a small group of students to Ethiopia with her each year. This is extremely interesting to the society members as they are able to see how their funding is helping the Ethiopian midwives and women that they care for. The close involvement with this charity allows us to gain an informative insight of how very different midwifery is in a developing country. In the summer, the society held a cake sale as well as a sponsored bike ride and family beach party to raise money for such an important charity.
What topics has the society covered in its study days?
Last January the society held a ‘Normal birth’ study day which was opened by Cathy Dowling, Head of Midwifery. The first speaker of the day was Professor Cathy Warwick CBE – the chief executive of the RCM – who spoke about birth place study. The study day focused on latest evidence-based research regarding a women’s place of birth; and the key findings were that evidence supports the policy of offering appropriate low risk the choice of birth place.
Research shows that both primiparous and multiparous women have better outcomes when offered the choice of delivering their babies at home or in a midwifery led unit. The study day was arranged by the second-year students at the time. All of the first-year students attended because ‘normality’ is the main focus of the first year of our programme and we were keen to know more. We all felt that this study day was informative and contributed positively to our learning and development, complementing our university studies.
What prompted the society to choose water birth as the topic for the next study day?
As the society is all about new student midwives bringing new ideas and inspirations to others, we thought that we would challenge ourselves to organise another study day with the aim of trying to improve our knowledge and skills. It was Lorien Furbear’s idea to choose water birth as a topic. She has a strong interest in the subject after reading many articles as part of her research for a 10,000 word project that she did as a final piece during her access to HE course.
Lorien has read a lot of Dianne Garland’s evidence-based research, and has been impressed by Dianne’s 26 years of water birth experience, so she felt that Dianne would be a perfect facilitator for the study day.
Lorien spoke to fellow student Natalie Kentish, who has a background in business, in order to consider costing and the financial dimensions of the study day, and to work out its feasibility before launching the idea to the rest of the society members. Lorien and Natalie have worked extremely hard as the key organisers, including the rest of the society where necessary. Everyone in our group plays a role in ensuring the success of the study day. Annemarie and the other third years have been extremely supportive and offered guidance and support to ensure the success of the day.
How did the rest of the society members welcome the idea of a water birth study day?
They thought it was an amazing idea, primarily because some of them have not been fortunate to attend a water birth as yet. Most of them have read extensively about water birth and are keen to have the knowledge and skills needed to support women to use this option during labour.
We all agree that a birthing pool provides a calm, private, relaxed atmosphere, and most of the women cope with just water, with some using Entonox as well. Some women tend to use the water just for the labour and then give birth outside of the pool. Generally the women seemed more in control in the water, especially when bringing their babies to the surface of the water themselves. Whilst some students had attended water births with very confident mentors, the general consensus was that a lot of midwives are not confident with water births and therefore tend to shy away from them.
The group believe that all low-risk women should be offered use of the birthing pool as standard practice (if available). Some also feel that the study day will be a good opportunity to talk about the role of student midwives in updating their mentors and contributing to practice development and improvement.
Although some students feel they do not have the power and influence to make a difference in practice, we are all aware that having and sharing up to date practice can be positive for our qualified colleagues. This is encouraged by being a member of the society and sharing new evidence-based research. With all of this information and discussion, our group agreed that we are all looking forward to attending the water birth study day and it should prove equally beneficial to current qualified midwives as well as the midwives of the future.