05.20 – My alarm goes off, and it’s still pitch black outside. I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink a huge coffee, and check through my bag to make sure I have all I need for my day working at the birthing centre. I leave the house for the station, walking through central London at sunrise.
07.00 – Once I arrive at the hospital I change into my scrubs and find my mentor; I’m ready to start my 12.5 hour shift. We attend handover together, which is where midwives ending one shift meet with the midwives taking over the unit for the next shift, and we discuss all the patients within the unit in detail. Our patients here are either in labour or have just recently have delivered – so all details are very important to make sure they receive the best care possible from their new midwife.
07.30 – Handover is finished and my mentor and I are looking after a woman in labour. After introducing ourselves, we read through our patient’s notes and formulate a plan of care together. What has this woman’s pregnancy been like? Any medical or surgical history? What has happened in her labour so far? What is her birthing plan? All of these aspects will influence how we care for her and her unborn baby. We talk with her and her partner discussing what her wishes are and gaining consent for any procedure. Making sure the patient knows and understands what is happening is vital.
09.30 – Once we have performed any checks such as blood pressure, assessing the baby, or how far along she is in her labour if it is necessary, we make sure our patient knows we are here for her as little or as much as she wants. Creating this relationship of trust, empathy and security is hugely important – after all, she is putting her and her child’s life in my and my mentor’s hands.
10.00 – As this patient is in ‘active labour’ my mentor supervises me as I listen into the baby’s heart rate every 15 minutes to check the baby is coping well between the contractions. She asks the midwife if she can go into the birthing pool, mainly to use as a form of pain relief.
11.30 – Our patient has been in the birthing pool for a while and is showing signs that the baby may be coming soon. As a student, learning the subtle signs of the second stage of labour is something you pick up over time with practice. Maintaining a calm and reassuring environment enables everyone involved to feel relaxed – positivity and encouragement in labour is key.
12.00 – My mentor and I retrieve some medication for our patient. Helping women to cope with their pain is a huge part of midwifery, along with supporting their decisions. We look at the drug chart together and the midwife supervises me as I get the correct drug and dose. We go together to check the patient’s identification, whether she has any allergies and check it all against the drug chart once more. Accidentally giving the wrong drug, or the wrong dose or route can have very bad effects on the patient so I am always heavily supervised.
13.30 – After pushing for one hour in the birthing pool, our patient delivers a beautiful baby. This is always a highlight of being a student midwife – the pure joy and relief on the mother’s face always makes this job and the hard work so worthwhile. Within training we have to deliver a minimum of 40 natural births – now after this morning’s hard work I only have 18 left to go!
14.00 – After performing an initial newborn check and weighing the baby, my mentor fills in some paperwork while I support this new mother to breastfeed for the first time.
14.30 – Another midwife comes into relieve my mentor and me for our lunch break – one hour off of your feet is always highly appreciated. I personally also take this hour to eat as much as I can and to drink as many cups of tea as humanly possible.
15.30 – Once our break is over, we go back to our patient. After assisting her to wash, dress and to give her any necessary pain relief, we transfer her to the maternity ward. My mentor and I hand over care to the postnatal ward midwife who will be looking after her. I tell the new midwife all about the patient; her medical, social, obstetric and surgical histories and, of course, the details of her pregnancy, labour and delivery. It is vital not to miss out any information – my mentor listens closely to fill in any gaps I may have missed. We say goodbye to our patient, her partner and her baby. Seeing how happy and content they are as a new family always makes me realise how amazing, rewarding and exciting my career will always be.
17.30 – My mentor and I take a moment to go through my Midwifery Practice Document. This is how mentors assess students while on placement. We talk through a few of my labour and delivery skills and sign off one which I achieved today.
18.00 – For the last hour of the shift we take telephone calls from other women in labour – assessing them and occasionally inviting them into the hospital if we think they need a physical assessment. As the birthing centre is fairly quiet, we restock anything that is needed around the unit and generally make sure everything is spick and span – ready for any new patient that may walk through the door in labour.
19.00 – The end of my shift is here. Even though 12.5 hours at work seems a long time, it always goes extremely quickly. The midwives hand over the patients on the birthing unit to the night team. We also tell them about any women who are in early stages of labour at home, or who are making their way into hospital so the midwives don’t have any surprises.
19.30 – My mentor gives me permission to leave my shift and I start the hour’s journey home. I always like this time on the train to reflect on the day I’ve just had.
20.30 – I am finally home after what was another tiring but extremely rewarding day at the birthing centre. I quickly eat some dinner and get straight into bed in order to get as much sleep as I can – tomorrow I’ll be doing it all again!
Hayley, 3rd Year, Midwifery Student
For more information on Midwifery, click here.