Monday, 30 August 2010

And into Community I go....

No not Community service before anyone makes the joke! I shall for the next 6 weeks be working alongside a Community midwife and getting a glimpse of the work that they do.

A week before I was due to go out I rang my Community mentor to arrange where I was going to meet her. Unfortunately her response was not what I expected "well you won't be meeting me, I'm on annual leave for two weeks, back in for two weeks and then off again for two weeks, I don't know why they gave me a student".....which left me with a goldfish look on my face and thinking "oh no here we go again". Though to her credit she did sort it out within a couple of hours, and a midwife in her team rang to arrange for me to go out with her instead. So already it was a big improvement as I hadn't had to sort it out myself.

So fast forward to Thursday and my first shift out with my new mentor and I was feeling quite nervous. She put me instantly at ease and chatted with me about what I thought a Community Midwife did. We then went out to some postnatal home visits where she got me just to observe; a few discharges and a heel prick later and I was done for the day. She had another visit to do but as a really sensitive one, she decided not to take me with her. So I took the opportunity to go to the library and get some work done on my assignment.

The next day I met her at the clinic where we booked in three women who were between 8-10 weeks pregnant. I observed the first two and then she let me book in the third lady. I was really pleased that she gave me the opportunity so quickly but also that she supported me in it. She was right on hand to help me should I need it, but she also wasn't looking over my shoulder and making me nervous. It meant I felt completely comfortable, knowing she wouldn't let me make a silly mistake, or miss something out and that she was there to provide the more detailed information about the blood tests that I don't know yet. After finishing at the clinic we had just one visit and again we were done for the day. Two half days....I could get used to this lol.

I opted to work the Saturday as well as my mentor wasn't working the Bank Holiday Monday and I'd end up short on my hours. We had 6 visits in total to do, which included one discharge and five heel pricks. I'd already been told that she'd be letting me do the heel pricks as it would be good experience to do so many at once. So we started off at the hospital to put the ladies we'd booked the day before onto the computer system. The first two went like clockwork and then on the third the computer did something strange and was trying to add an additional pregnancy that the lady had never had. So it took us a little while to sort that out and whilst doing that my mentor received a phone call about another lady that needed to be seen. We went to see her first and whilst we were there, my mentor could find no record of the baby having had her heel prick test done - she'd been back into the hospital and on antibiotics and on discussion with the hospital, it appeared not to have been done. So this resulted is us being in this lady's house for rather longer than anticipated. It also meant we didn't have enough heel prick kits with us so we'd need to go back to the hospital.

The next few visits were fine and I did the heel prick test on the babies whilst my mentor filled in the paperwork. In case you don't know what the heel prick test is, you can read more about it here
The test itself is really simple....even more simple than when they did them on my own babies at 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 years ago - they use a little blade rather than a needle and it's very simple to use. It was a nice thing to check off my list as having done.

We completed all of our visits, including returning to the hospital to collect an extra heel prick kit and an extra visit that had been requested by someone in a bit of pain postnatally. So by the time we eventually finished for the day it was 4 pm, which for a Saturday was a long day. On the plus side I got lots of practice at doing the heel prick test, lots of time to chat with my mentor, some time in a mental health facility (not as an inmate!) where I waited in the office whilst my mentor carried out an antenatal - very sensitive situation so I won't be discussing it on my blog. I am getting on so well with my mentor that I asked her if it would be possible to stay with her for the remainder of my placement period this semester; it seems daft to switch to my original named mentor for just one week. She seems equally as happy with me and said she would ask her team leader if it was possible so I am keeping my fingers crossed. it would be brilliant to have some continuity.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Academics and assignments

A common question I have been asked is how I am coping with the academic side of my course, especially with two young children to distract me at home. I made some decisions before starting the course about how I would manage my time. At school I was the type of person to leave everything to the last minute and then not do it very well; but since I've grown up and now that I am doing things I am genuinely interested in, I find that I actually look forward to doing my work and the thought of leaving things just scares me. So I've been organising myself really well; starting my wider reading early, getting an early start on my assignments and typing up my notes from lectures. I'm not a swot, I just know I have to work hard if I want to be a midwife and that it's the academic side that will challenge me the most.

One of the best things I have done so far is to never attempt to study at home. I always go to the library. When we have a day at Uni where we finish at lunchtime, I stay for a few hours and study. If we have a long gap between lectures, I go to the library. If I didn't have children of my own, I have absolutely no doubt that I'd be doing things differently but you have to find what works for you. I am extremely lucky in that I have a husband who is extremely supportive and understands that I need time at the library even when he hasn't seen me much. I find at the library I instantly put myself in study mode, I can concentrate far more easily as there isn't anything to distract me. The Uni libraries are wonderful too; I can use the books whilst I am there, the Internet to look at journals and search the web for information. I have even found YouTube a great resource for studying some of the biology - there are some brilliant videos showing exactly how the blood flow works in the heart and around the body - this has really helped me a lot.

So the last three days were spent in Uni and I can tell you straight it was a complete shock to the system after three weeks holiday. We were in with back to back lectures from 9-6 every day apart from an hours break for lunch. And if that wasn't bad enough, for each lecture we were at opposite ends of the campus so it was a speedy walk between each lecture too. It was all very intense with lots of talk about our upcoming assignments and exams. And so the reality has hit for quite a few of my year group and lots of people are starting to worry about our first assignment which is due in October. Having already started mine I'm certainly not feeling too stressed yet but I am also fully aware that I will re-read and re-write it many many times so I need that head start.

It was wonderful to catch up with my fellow midwifery students and found out how they were all getting on in their placements. We've already had such a variety of experiences and it seems we are all enjoying the work we are getting to do; which is of course the most important part. So now I am off into the Community part of my placement and I'm really looking forward to it. I am hoping to get lots of experience at booking women in and doing their antenatal checks and of course if there is a home birth - well that would be fantastic but I won't be holding my breath!

Friday, 20 August 2010

25 weeks pregnant

Sam 25weeks, originally uploaded by stephalie1977.

I shared a photo of this beautiful bump a few weeks ago. The lovely lady it belongs to is a very special person who has also played a part in my journey to becoming a midwife.

I first met Sam at a breastfeeding support group that we both attended. I didn't know much about her other than she had a little girl who didn't seem too much younger than my own. Over time we got to know each other better and I discovered that her daughter was in fact her second child, and that she'd also had a son. Malachi should be 5 now but in very tragic circumstances, Sam lost her precious baby boy when he was just weeks old.

Sam now has two beautiful daughters and a fourth baby on the way. She is a passionate, loving mother with very strong beliefs. She's not afraid to speak her mind and knows exactly what is right for her and her children. She is hoping for a second boy this time, but I have no doubts at all, whether boy or girl, this baby is truly lucky to be blessed by Sam as a mother.

During Sam's third pregnancy, she attended the same antenatal group that I did, run by two midwives. And as with me, she was lucky to have these very same midwives present for the home birth of her third child. They'd known Sam since the birth of Malachi and it's hard to put into words exactly how much they mean to Sam. So for them to be there for that birth was truly magical.

When I listened to Sam talk about the support, encouragement and love from these two inspirational women; it again affirmed exactly what I wanted to do. To be able to comfort someone in the depths of so much pain is truly a gift and both Sam and I have been so lucky to not only know these women, but to also have had them empower our labour and birth experiences.

I shall devote a blog post to these two midwives soon, to try and give you an inkling of why they are so special....but for now you'll just have to take my word for it.

Also Sam has recently started her own blog to share with you her journey...please do read and follow...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ten tiny toes

Ten tiny toes, originally uploaded by stephalie1977.

Ten very important tiny toes. The two mothers of these tiny babies have played a part already in my midwifery journey.

On the 1st December 2008 a baby boy was born, big brother to the little girl in my picture. Sadly this much longed for baby boy lived for just 11 hours. The reason he died is quite simply tragic - midwife error. I am not basing this on my opinion by the way; the hospital involved has admitted liability. I won't go into the ins and outs of it all but one thing it made me sure of, is that I wanted to prevent women from having a similar experience. And it wasn't so much about the outcome, which of course I wouldn't want anyone to have; but about the way the Mum was treated during her labour.

The little boy in my picture also has an older brother and sister that he will not get to meet on this earth; though he is blessed with a beautiful, quirky older sister too and an incredible set of parents. I don't really know the details about his lost older sister, other than I believe it was around the 16th week of pregnancy.

I really only got to know his Mum over the last year and a half. She is a wonderful woman; calm, reassuring, strong, gentle, wise and most of all honest. She's been faced with more trials than anyone could ever deserve and come out of it fighting. Miscarriages; both early and late, a stillbirth, bleeding throughout pregnancy....she deserves more than a medal. She copes because she has to; she knows when to ask for help and that is the greatest strength of all.

Last year she organised an event to raise money for SANDS; at that time not realising how much SANDS would come to mean to her. She simply cared so much about helping others in need. I saw her at that event, pregnant and happy; we laughed together and ate cake. On the 17th July 2009 she discovered her baby had died. On the 19th July he was born, too tiny but so very beautiful. Since then she has raised huge sums of money for SANDS, and continued to raise awareness. She has grieved and she has loved and she has been an inspiration to many. And she found the strength to try again; to give her daughter a companion on earth; to give herself the chance to love again. Another boy, born early but so perfect. What amazes me more than anything, is her strength; she continues today to organise another set of fundraising events so that women like her can get the support they need. She's experienced the whole variety of midwifery support - from the midwives who didn't mind how much reassurance she needed to those to whom she felt a nuisance; the midwives that empowered her and the ones that belittled her. In a profession of care, there are too many horror stories.

For the year following the loss of her son, she wrote him letters. Please do read, so that you might understand just a tiny part of how special she is

So both of these women made me stronger in my resolve to become a midwife. A birth should be a joyous occasion, to be celebrated. But it's not always the case and the midwife is there for that too. It doesn't have to be a negative experience....that might sound strange but it's something I believe. I want the women I care for to know, that everything was done that could be done; that they couldn't have changed anything; that they didn't deserve it. I want to be a calm, reassuring presence for them if I can. I can't change the outcome but I can try and ease the experience I hope. Maybe this is naive of me but I hope not; I hope I can do something, mean something.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

No catches yet

So that's four weeks completed at my first placement. I notched up 6 witnesses, 23 postnatal checks, 4 baby checks, 2 occasions of taking blood, 2 occasions of witnessing suturing but no catches of my own just yet.

I had some "fun" with blood taking this week. The first time I took blood, it went perfectly; the second time, I went wrong and didn't get it so my mentor took over. So I decided I needed to get back on the horse and try again sooner rather than later to avoid getting a hang up on it. So I went alone to this lady with a third year student by my side, identified the vein and as soon as I put the needle in the vein collapsed. The 3rd year tried and the same thing happened, so she tried the other arm and it happened again. So we got the registered midwife to try and she couldn't get it either. In the end I think a doctor got her blood. So whilst initially I was gutted and thought I was just going to mess up each time, I was thoroughly relieved to discover that it wasn't me and I'd done everything right, it was just the lady in questions veins misbehaving lol. Anyway I got the opportunity to try again on my final shift; I was nervous about it as I really didn't want it to go wrong again. So I got the registered midwife to come along with me; she took a look first to make sure it was a nice easy vein; to ensure I had a good chance of getting it. So I took position, identified the vein which was a lovely bouncy one. I put the needle in and then held my breath as I attached the blood bottle, thinking all the time "please spurt blood straight away" and sighed with relief when it did!

I also thankfully got some of my formative and summative assessments signed off which really made me a lot happier. It's so hard though - how on earth do you grade someone on being able to identify the emergency buzzers? Surely either you can or you can't? We all agreed it wasn't a great system....especially since who is marking you can vary a lot. Oh well so long as I pass, that's all that matters at this stage.

So now I have three weeks annual leave to enjoy. I've already begun it well with a fantastic night out with some friends and I am also hoping to take some more bump photos so I'll still be posting.

Are you enjoying my blog so far? Any questions about what I'm doing?