Being a midwifery student is fast paced, hard work! I have learned so much over my last 3 years as a student midwife – not just clinical skills and how to write practice guidelines, but also how to juggle the transition into the world of being a community birth provider. Midwifery can quickly become more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle! Below are my top tips for midwifery students in any stage of their education!
TIPS TO FIND A PRECEPTOR:
- Don’t wait until the last minute – It’s never too early to start making connections in the birth world even if you are not quite ready to start in a clinical placement. You never know when a global pandemic might roll around and make it even harder to find a placement! It’s always a good idea to get your name out there so when the time comes, you don’t feel pressed for time & behind on experiences.
- Make sure you have a polished & updated CV/Resume ready – Spend some time making sure you are putting your best foot forward. Grammar, spelling & punctuation are important! Include any and all work, volunteer and school experience. I liked to include a note about why I was pursuing midwifery and the specific things that made me a qualified candidate.
- Be resourceful – There are a ton of ways to find out who is a practicing midwife in your area and/or what birth centers might be looking for students. I joined several Facebook groups (Hearthside Online Midwifery Students is a good start) that frequently have postings for student openings all over the country. Bookmark your state’s midwifery association website to access a full list of practicing midwives and their contact information. Send over a nice introduction note & attach that pretty new resume! Check out their websites to see if they have specific information for students. If you are at a midwifery school, check your school’s job posting board – MCU has a whole working document with clinical placement opportunities all over the country. Finally, you cannot go wrong with good ole’ Google.
- Don’t get frustrated if the search is slow – Midwives are busy humans. Not all midwives can or want to take a student. You want to find someone you connect with & share similar philosophies with. This is why it’s important to start making connections early on. You will eventually find where you need to be! Keep an open mind about location and type of practice. I was set on starting in a birth center, and have absolutely LOVED my time in a home-birth practice. If you are able, considering a short-term placement in a new city might be a good option for some people! Don’t be afraid to reach out to teachers, mentors, personal providers, friends and your community for help with your search.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF A CLINICAL PLACEMENT
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Everyone has to start from somewhere. If you have a question that will further your learning and skills ASK! Just make you wait until an appropriate time to ask (the middle of someone’s prenatal appointment or during a contraction is probably not the best time if it’s not a time sensitive question).
- Spend some time getting to know your clinical placement & preceptor(s) – You will most likely be spending a lot of time together, so foster those relationships! Trusting your preceptor and having a relationship with them will make your clinical experience feel easier. Knowing your preceptor’s philosophy of practice, how their practice runs, the clientele they take, etc. will all help your clinical journey flow smoothly!
- Do your homework – Most clinical placements/preceptors will have a student handbook or something of the like. Print it out & make sure you are crystal clear of what is expected of you, what to wear, all the things. Take notes when you are learning things like sterilizing instruments, setting up trays at a birth, setting up oxygen, etc. that way you can reference back later & know exactly how the practice you are with does things!
- Take opportunities when you can – Most skills take time and a lot of practice to get good at. If you have an opportunity to do something (and you feel comfortable & ready) do it! Not all clients will want you to “practice” on them – and you have to respect and understand that. You won’t be able to dive right into hands-on client care, so absorb everything your preceptor does like a sponge – then when the time comes for your turn, you feel confident enough to try. I watched about 800 injections before I finally felt “ready” to give one- now when I am asked if I want to do one, I say yes every time and feel like that skill has really advanced for me! If your preceptor offers skills practices, hands on learning opportunities or anything else – take them all! Practice vitals or taking a health history on your friends and family. Every little thing helps!
- Settle in & enjoy the process – Being a midwifery apprentice is not meant to be done at hyper-speed. Community midwives have a tremendous amount of responsibility & huge skill-set that one does not learn in a matter of a few months. Whether you are there short-term, for your whole clinical experience or work with a few practices, slow down and remember this part is important to not rush. Students can get caught up in numbers and experiences, but remember that there is a lot more to becoming a midwife than just catching a certain number of babies! Trust the process, even if it seems slow.
TIPS FOR BALANCE
- Self-Care – I don’t care if your self-care is getting a massage every week, going for a walk, taking a bath, gardening, napping or binging Netflix. Pick something that makes you happy & feel good AND DO IT! Especially after a long birth or stressful day. Making time to rest my mind and body has been so important in keeping my cup filled. You cannot serve others if you are not serving yourself.
- Be Realistic – Midwifery is time consuming, hard work! Being realistic with myself that I might miss a dinner with friends or concert for a birth has been really helpful for my transition to on-call life. I do not pretend like I can do anything and everything – because even if I am not at a birth, I might be tired from a long week, have a paper to write or a test to study for. Being realistic about how I feel and what I need to get done as a student is important. Taking 14 credits at school & trying to work a second job and being a student midwife is hard work, but it won’t be forever!
- Stay Organized – Make your planner your best friend. From scheduling clinic days, home visits, homework and live sessions to penciling in that important self-care time, staying organized is a top priority for my sanity. Staying organized means when your week gets thrown off with a mid-day birth or the need to sleep until 2pm arises, you feel slightly less chaotic.
- Communicate your Needs – If you need an hour off clinic to attend a live session for school, ask! If you need help with a skill, ask! If you feel like you just might keel over if you miss another night of sleep – talk to your preceptor! They want you to be at your best too. Balance being the best student you can be, with staying sane & happy!