I shall soon be going back into Uni, sitting my first exam, submitting my first assignment and doing a drugs calculation test. It already feels like I've come a long way since May and whilst I still have a long way to go, I am pleased with what I have already learnt. I've really enjoyed being able to apply some of the things we learnt in University to placement and I can definitely say some things were a lot easier to understand when we applied them to real women.
So what have I learnt so far? I've learnt about the importance of using the correct professional terminology in the notes....apparently writing "sore boobs" is not professional and yes I did do that. When pointed out to me, I was actually quite embarrassed but hey I'm here to learn after all. The other errors I made were a lot less embarrassing - thrombocytopaenia instead of low platelets is not obvious after all.
I have learnt that feeling for the top of the uterus is harder than it seems and that muscle can confuse me. Also it's important not to assume that just because the measurement doesn't appear to fit with gestation length, doesn't mean I have measured wrong. You can also move the uterus to fit what you want it to and it's obviously important not to do this. Holding the measuring tape quite tight can also affect the measurement and it seemed that I did that frequently. Women's pubic bones are at different heights and it's important to make sure you do measure from it and some women's are harder to feel than others. It's also quite surprising how many women go commando.
I feel I have also learnt how to manage my time better when talking to women. My first booking appointments I'd let women and their partners talk away but my more recent booking appointments I have been more confident to take control and move the appointment along when needed. It's important to recognised when women need to talk but it's also important to recognise when it's not necessary so to speak. Goodness knows I have the gift of the gab and can talk all day long....just ask anyone who knows me; but a community midwife has to manage her time effectively in order to fit all the appointments in.
That some days I feel quite confident and that I know what I am doing and other days I feel like my brain fell out overnight and I haven't got a clue. So on the Thursday, I "ran" the clinic. I was confidently palpating, writing notes, checking urine and blood pressures and then on Monday at clinic, I felt like I fumbled my way through, guessing rather than knowing and being very grateful that my mentor was there to confirm or correct my findings. I was assured it is quite normal to have days like this though.
I have found that many women are interested in me as a student and are very happy to be a part of their care. Before I started I wondered whether I would have anyone who would object to me being there but so far that hasn't been the case. The feedback I have been given from women and their partners has been very positive and I have been wished luck for my future from many of them. As part of my Placement Assessment Document I have to get feedback from two women and I found it quite hard to ask but both were really happy to do it for me, and gave me lovely feedback.
I have learnt the value of continuity and how much of a difference it can make to my learning and my confidence. I always knew that I'd work with a lot people when I came out on placement, I planned to make myself as useful and as amenable as possible but I completely underestimated how much it would affect me. I never thought I would get upset so early on in my training. In some ways, I think it's been an important learning curve for me and I hope that with my future placements I will know how to manage whilst working with a variety of mentors. On the other hand, I do believe that it's a common issue for student midwives and can make it harder to learn how to do things. It's certainly feedback I will take back to university but I am sure it's something they have heard time and time before.
I have also learnt how much pressure I put on myself and that my own high standards can serve to upset me if I don't reach them. When I think how embarrassed I was about writing "sore boobs" instead of breast tenderness, I also need to remember how much I have learnt. After all if my mentor is happy to come and go from the room whilst I do bookings, then she must be happy with how I am doing and confident in my abilities and therefore I shouldn't beat myself up quite so much when I make a mistake. Certainly none of the mistakes I've made have been life threatening after all.
And alongside all of this I have improved upon my clinical skills. I am now confident at taking women's blood pressures. I am no longer at a complete loss when I palpate a woman and am currently working out the baby's position correctly. I have even begun to feel for level of engagement and starting to feel that I can tell the difference. I am able to read the urine dipsticks confidently now, whereas initially I was sometimes unsure whether there was a green tinge on some of the squares or not. I am much more confident on how to locate the heartbeat and tell the difference to maternal heartbeat, and whether or not it is through the cord I can hear it.
So I have just one more week in placement and as I will be working with a different community midwife this week, my mentor completed my summative assessments and as a result gave me my final grade for the placement. I am thrilled to have passed my first placement and to now be able to enjoy my final week, seeing how another midwife works, without the pressure of getting my book signed.