Rachel Jones (vice president, first-year student midwife), Lindsey Hughes (president, second-year student midwife), and Sammy Edwards (communications officer, second-year student midwife) recently held a successful launch event, and here they tell us about setting up their society and their plans for the future…
Why did you decide to start a society at the University of Chester?
The society was launched because, following a survey of our cohort, it was noted that students did not feel 100% fully ‘part of the university’; therefore we decided to give our midwifery students an identity at the university.
We also noted that our students held a great interest in attending study days and conferences; however, attending these could be particularly challenging due to having to travel a distance, fitting them in around placement hours, family commitments and cost.
What are the aims of your society?
We hope to organise relevant, easily accessible and cost effective study days, which would include interesting and engaging speakers, on our own allotted self-directed study days. In addition to our own students, we will welcome students from other universities, prospective students, and qualified midwives alike to our events.
We hope that our society will also help its members and anyone attending our events to continue to provide holistic, evidence-based, woman-centred care, as well as complying with the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s varied teaching and learning requirements.
We asked the students who were interested in becoming members to pay a small annual membership fee of £10, which would provide enough money to advertise our society within the university, our local Trusts and neighbouring universities. We will also charge a fraction of the price to attend our study days, compared to a session with similar content elsewhere.
We also aim to bring all three cohorts together to provide a support network of experience, knowledge and skills. We also want to provide local midwives with an opportunity to showcase new research/studies (especially if they’re studying for a post-graduate degree at the University of Chester). We aim for our society to add to its members’ growing knowledge, broaden our minds, and improve our essential skills of team-working and communication. As co-founders of the society, we also intend to exercise our own time-management, prioritising and leadership skills.
What challenges have you faced while setting up the society?
The biggest challenge we face is fitting the organisation of our society and events around our lectures, assignments, placement hours and family life. However, we have surprised ourselves at how organised we can be! We have found that effective communication, delegation of work, as well as great support from each other and our peers has helped immensely. We also came across challenges when organising our launch event, and finding the funding for it. We found that the tiny details take up the most time; for example, organising appropriate time slots for our speakers, writing an agenda, booking an appropriate sized room, and organising refreshments!
Did fellow students and department staff welcome the idea of a midwifery society?
We have been very lucky to have so much support from our lecturers, department staff, students, and our local Trusts. All of our midwifery lecturers were very supportive and agreed that it was something that would definitely benefit our students.
In order for our pitch to be considered by the Students Union, we had to gain signatures from our fellow students from all cohorts, and we were so relieved to find that they were just as excited as we were, and were willing to sign our application and support us. We gained over 100 ‘likes’ on our Facebook page within a few days of it being set up, have had many visitors to our website, and lots of support on Twitter from students and midwifery societies from different universities too.
We were also very lucky to receive a lot of support from the Royal College of Midwives, with Cathy Warwick CBE, chief executive of the RCM (pictured), opening our society at our launch event on 3rd December!
What advice would you give any students thinking of starting a society?
Go for it! Find out who else is interested in setting one up at your university, as the more help you have the easier it is. Organisation is key, and make sure you don’t neglect your studies, which can be easy to do as setting up a society is fun and exciting! Talk to your Students Union and the head of your department to find out what support and even what funding may be available for you to utilise, and talk to your local Trusts to find out how they can support you, even if it is by putting your posters up in the staff rooms.
What’s next for the University of Chester Midwifery Society?
We are currently in the process of developing a ‘buddy system’, whereby senior student midwives ‘buddy up’ with junior student midwives placed in their Trust, to provide peer support, friendship and a very important link between our cohorts. We are also planning our first study day for the spring: ‘Tending to Nature: Ensuring Normality in Different Environments’, with exciting speakers to be announced!