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Making continuity of care experiences work for midwifery students

There has been an expansion in research focussed on how best to prepare midwifery students for practice over recent years. In Australia and many other high-income countries, a key component of pre-registration education is the completion of continuity of care experiences. During these continuity experiences, midwifery students participate in the care of an individual woman across multiple antenatal visits, during her labour, and through the postpartum period. This requires students to recruit women and remain on-call for them over an extended period, which is challenging for many. It is therefore important to ensure that continuity of care experiences provide valuable learning experiences for students.

Moncrieff et al. (2021) recently reviewed the published literature, asking what the evidence says about how to optimise students’ learning during continuity experiences. The research team identified twelve studies which helped to address this question, all but one of which was undertaken in Australia. The value of continuity experiences as an educational tool was clear. Three main themes were described:

1. Relationships.
Relationships with women, midwifery mentors, and other clinicians were central to students learning. Ensuring that attending appointments with women was a priority and structuring the curriculum around this in ways that supported sustainable study practices for students facilitated the development of relationships with women. Having continuity of placement site and mentor also enhanced relationship-based learning.

2. Conflict or coherence.
Providing continuity within a fragmented model of care was challenging, with better quality learning occurring when students were placed in continuity of care models.

3. Setting the standards.
Unclear communication with students regarding the purpose, numbers, management, and documentation of continuity experiences generated confusion for students. When clear guidance, flexible program delivery, and appropriate assessment were provided, students were enabled to develop confidence and competence.

In completing this literature review, the authors highlighted the absence of a solid evidence base to underpin the intent and design of continuity experiences for midwifery students. Since their review was completed, further evidence to support the benefits of placing students in continuity models has been published (Baird et al., 2021). There remain many opportunities to pursue further research that seeks to ensure that midwifery students graduate with the confidence and competence required to take up a productive role in a midwifery continuity of care program.

References

Baird, K., Hastie, C. R., Stanton, P., & Gamble, J. (2021). Learning to be a midwife: Midwifery students’ experiences of an extended placement within a midwifery group practice. Women and Birth, in press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2021.01.002

Moncrieff, G., MacVicar, S., Norris, G., & Hollins Martin, C. J. (2021, Feb). Optimising the continuity experiences of student midwives: an integrative review. Women Birth, 34(1), 77-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2020.01.007

Preparing students to provide continuity of care

Continuity of midwifery care provides superior maternal and neonatal outcomes (Sandall et al., 2016). Access to continuity of care models is limited, both for women and for midwifery students who have the opportunity to gain direct experience of such models. There is also concern that placing students in a continuity of care model rather than a standard hospital model of care may reduce their learning.

New research from Professor Kathleen Baird, Ms Carolyn Hastie, Ms Paula Stanton and Emeritus Professor Jenny Gamble of the Transforming Maternity Care Collaborative focussed on the learning experiences of students who complete an extended placement in a midwifery group practice providing continuity of care at Griffith University (Baird et al., 2021). Final year midwifery students were able to elect to take part in a six-month placement in a midwifery group practice team. The research team conducted focus group interviews to explore the experiences of fifteen students who had taken part in the placement.

Students reported that their placement in the midwifery group practice was the highlight of their degree and was not as demanding as they had anticipated. Being able to develop skills in providing relationship-based care was highly valued by students and was enabled and supported by the midwives they were working with. The culture of the midwifery group practice in which students were placed provided a supportive environment were students learned to take care of themselves and their team members, and to collaborate with other members of the team. Students felt that they were valued members of the team. Returning back to the hospital shift-based system was challenging for most students. They were aware of a loss of autonomy and a faster pace of care. Some were supported well in this transition, while others were criticised for their choice to spend time in the midwifery group practice.

This research enables midwifery educators to be confident that prolonged immersive student placements in midwifery continuity of care models provides positive learning experiences. The students described feeling and acting like a “real midwife” during their placement, with six being adamant that they would apply for a position in a midwifery group practice immediately after graduation. Increased access to midwifery continuity of care models for women would provide more opportunities for midwifery students to gain experience of working in this model.

References

Baird, K., Hastie, C. R., Stanton, P., & Gamble, J. (2021). Learning to be a midwife: Midwifery students’ experiences of an extended placement within a midwifery group practice. Women and Birth, in press.

Sandall, J., Soltani, H., Gates, S., Shennan, A., & Devane, D. (2016, Apr 28). Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4(11), CD004667.

New research from the Transforming Maternity Care Collaborative Team

Collectively, the Transforming Maternity Care Collaborative generate a large volume of high quality, impactful research. This week has seen the publication of five new papers from our team members in the Women and Birth journal. You can access the full text of each of these via the links below. Settle in with a cuppa and enjoy getting up to date.

Intrapartum CTG monitoring does not improve perinatal outcomes.

Authors: Dr Kirsten Small, Associate Professor Mary Sidebotham, Professor Jennifer Fenwick, Professor Jenny Gamble.

This systematic literature review identified all randomised controlled trials and non-experimental evidence which has examined whether the use of CTG monitoring during labour rather than intermittent auscultation reduces perinatal mortality or cerebral palsy rates in babies born to women considered to be at high risk. No improvement in mortality was found, while an increase in the cerebral palsy rate was noted when CTG monitoring was used during preterm labour.

“High-quality research is urgently required to identify which women, if any, obtain a perinatal benefit from intrapartum CTG monitoring.”

Access this paper here.

Measuring midwifery students’ experiences of learning in clinical practice environments.

Authors: Ms Marnie Griffiths, Professor Jennifer Fenwick, Professor Jenny Gamble, Professor Debra Creedy.

Learning in a clinical environment is a key component of a comprehensive midwifery education program. Being able to measure how well specific learning environments support midwifery students as they develop the knowledge and skills required for professional practice is important. This paper reports on the development and testing of the MidSTEP tool which offers a robust way to capture students’ perceptions of the clinical practice component of their degree. Students indicated high level support for the statements that the clinical environment supported their learning, enabled them to work across the full scope of practice, and fostered a self-directed approach to learning.

Access this paper here.

Placing students in the driver’s seat.

Authors: Ms Valerie Hamilton, Professor Kathleen Baird, Professor Jennifer Fenwick

This research reports on students’ experiences of learning to provide midwifery care in a student-led midwifery clinic providing antenatal and postnatal care. Students who were on-call for individual women were supported to provide antenatal and postnatal care under the supervision and guidance of their university practice lecturer. “Being in the driver’s seat” was the major theme of the findings, with students reporting a sense of being in control and feeling like “a real midwife”. Students described growing in confidence over time and feeling competent to step into practice.

Access this paper here.

Stepping from student to employment through simulated employment interviews.