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Advice to Student Midwives - Mavis Kirkham

It is really difficult to boil down a lot of work into a "few words" but I will have a go:-

Everyone needs autonomy and a reasonable control of their work and there is no greater work than having a baby. So balancing this for mother and midwife requires a lot of thought and mutual respect.

There is a real tension between those who seek to craft systems which apply to everyone and those who seek to craft relationships with individuals who are all different. The NHS hasn't really faced up to this yet.

Midwifery is fundamentally about relationships, not about doing things. If the midwife behaves so as to demonstrate that she has confidence in the woman's body that confidence will spread to the woman. Fear and anxiety are similarly infectious and highly destructive. This doesn't mean you shouldn't think ahead and develop your skills. Trust women and they will amaze you.

Respect physiology and work to understand it. I don't think we do this enough in midwifery. Don't act without a good physiological reason.

Think about all the things we do which we take for granted but which are interventions in the process of birth and only do them with a reason and with respect.

Cultivate your intellectual curiosity. Ask a good question every day and try to find out the answer. Keep reading. Don't do things because someone says so, if you don't understand why.

Cultivate the approach of a social anthropologist studying another society. Keep a stranger in the back of your head who questions things. Then you don't slip into professional or social furrows you can't see out of and you won't be shockable.

Make friends in the service user groups, there are wonderful people there.

Beware of behaving as an expert, it often cloaks fear or insecurity.

Build your own support network, you have to do it for yourself, and use it to increase your security, your curiosity, your confidence and your awe as to all there is to learn.

Remember we have the best job in the world. We actually get paid to attend miracles. Enjoy it and work to make the systems around us function better.

Mavis Kirkham

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