Inspirational students and the need for more midwives

Image I have just finished facilitating the @WeMidwives twitter chat, which runs every two weeks, under the domain of @WeNurses.

Tonight the debate centred around the shortage of midwives in the UK, and the impact this has on mothers and babies. The participants in the chat were raring to go. Interestingly but not surprising the majority of tweeters were student midwives, and they carefully and articulately described the situation in today's NHS maternity services. I believe that the content of the chat found here is a true reflection of things, as I hear from my colleagues around the country on a daily basis.

It is desperately sad. The resources are limited and constrained. It seems ludicrous that the NHS has a financial plan that enforces savings on services that potentially cost the NHS more in the long term.

We must keep raising the issue that radical change is needed to ensure care at the very beginning of life is the best it can be.   Midwifery staffing levels are inadequate, and the workload is increasing for many reasons. I recently wrote a post for the  NHS Confederation's blog for NHS Leaders highlighting the need to take stock of the Francis Report's recommendations and to listen to what service users are telling us, before it's too late.  

The students involved in the chat tonight were insightful, sensible and sensitive. They see and feel the pressure, the tension, the joy and the tiredness. They want to change things, and why shouldn't they get the opportunity? They are the future.

And I think we owe it to them to keep pushing for change. I will try, will you?

UK Student Midwives-something to be proud of


It's a long time ago since I was a student midwife (1970's), we were then known as a pupil midwives. It's even a long time since my daughter was a student midwife...and that does make me feel old! I have worked very closely with so many incredible students throughout my career, and I have instantly recognised the ones who I felt 'had it'- that is, the sensitivity and kindness that makes a difference to childbearing women in their most vulnerable yet special moments of their life.

But during the past year I have been incredibly fortunate to have 'met' hundreds of students from throughout the UK and beyond, in the virtual world. This has been made possible because of two things: writing my midwifery memoir Catching Babies, and using Twitter.

So many student midwives have contacted me and given feedback about my book, and I am touch with dozens on Twitter. I have also been approached by several individual students with requests to talk at their University conferences, and have been humbled and honoured to attend and support them.

So what is it that makes me feel proud? From my experience I feel this new generation of student midwives have not only 'got it', but they have other attributes that really impress me. I have seen a confidence and maturity that enables them to express themselves respectfully, with humility and graciousness. But this assertiveness is not at the cost of kindness and compassion; this is in abundance, along with an enormous passion to make a difference to women and families during the childbirth period.

My belief was further consolidated on the 16th July when several student midwives dressed in 1950's Call the Midwife style uniforms cycled 6 miles through London raising awareness of the desperate need for 5000 more midwives and the petition that the Royal College of Midwives have organised. The event was organised by Rebecca Ashley, and she and her colleagues have demonstrated courage and determination, innovation and leadership and they are still in their first year. We (midwives) are eternally grateful to them.

The more I communicate with, see, hear and chat to our country's student midwives, the more my heart sings. We are incredibly fortunate, and the future health of our nation depends on their ability to say strong, positive and focused.

And these student midwives need midwifery posts when they qualify. HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION? 

Photo of keychain