Blog post

Finding my voice as a future midwife

By Kayty Richards - 21 December 2021

Feeling empowered

I am a first-year Midwifery student, in the first ever cohort of student midwives at the University of Derby. I am also President of the new Midwifery Society, Midwifery Rocks. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to support my peers. Personally, I have already gained so much from this role. And it feels empowering to be able to channel my passion for Midwifery, personal development and peer support into building the foundations of Midwifery Rocks.

We officially launched our society to our peers on the day of the Student Midwife Experience Festival 2021 (SMEF21). This was particularly poignant for me. The festival aspired to enhance learning, provoke thoughts and deliver an honest view of the current Midwifery climate; to support and encourage student midwives through their journey. To have an opportunity to hear from such prominent figures from the Midwifery world was incredible. Yet the festival ensured that the students’ voice was front and centre throughout. To witness students taking the lead on key topics and discussion was inspiring. And to have the opportunity to do so as a cohort, together in person, was momentous.

Each speaker was followed by a discussion, led by students. This provided a relatable point of view and an example of students finding and projecting their voice on a professional platform. Dr Jacqui Williams and Verena Wallace MBE are senior advisors to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). They shared their knowledge about future Midwifery standards and how they are transferable for future practice. Hearing from such influential women is encouraging and forms additional learning from the core standards that are the bedrock of our degree, and future career. Fran McConville, Midwifery Advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO), then delivered a moving presentation. It showed the disparity of maternity care across the globe, highlighted by the Water Aid parallel lives video.

Maintaining balance

Navigating our way through our first year and preparing for placement is challenging. And add to that the widely published maternity staffing crisis. Processing an ever-changing professional environment is hard. To hear first hand the dedication and passion that other students and professionals both have, helps us to steer through the challenges. We are training to work in a highly pressured and emotive service, and we walk into it with our eyes and hearts open.

Our Lead Midwife for Education, Jayne Leverton, is passionate that we not only learn how to become autonomous midwives but we are encouraged to be future leaders, and gain the tools to manage the difficulties, as well as the privilege that is an overwhelming part of midwifery care. Maintaining balance as a student midwife is a finely tuned juggle. And we don’t always get right. But that’s OK. We have the support of Jayne, and the wider University support network. Being a student is constant learning. Aside from the academic programme, we must balance home life, placements, meeting new people and processing our personal and professional growth. However, the one thing that overrides all our fears and anxieties is the unquestionable desire we possess to advocate and empower women through their pregnancy and journey into parenthood.

Our course enables us to reflect on how we feel, how we grow, and how we support the women and families in our care. I feel extremely grateful that the University has supported face-to-face learning. Getting hands on and building our skill set has been vital to our learning and our growing in confidence. Jayne has been dedicated to supporting us bonding as a cohort and has been behind us launching a society every step of the way. This gives us the ability to build friendships and support each other through the adjustment to life as a student midwife.

Passion and compassion

Continuing this through the society and events such as SMEF21 gives us, as students, a voice and an ability to learn and grow from the highs and lows, which we hear, see and feel as student midwives. By talking openly and honestly, we offer each other insight and tools to effectively care for women and their babies in the most empowering and caring way. It is vital we also learn to look after ourselves and our peers, something I feel so passionately about.

The importance of this was reinforced at SMEF21 by the Director of ALL4Maternity, Sheena Byrom, who spoke so compassionately about supporting midwives and bringing joy to Midwifery, and the courageous midwives who passionately deliver the care.

Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE, Chief Midwifery Officer for the UK, delivered a rousing speech at SMEF21, about the strides maternity services have made. Yet she acknowledged the road we still have ahead to ensure equality and improved outcomes across the globe. She chose to amplify this point by quoting US Vice President Kamala Harris in that it is not time to throw up our hands, it is time to roll up our sleeves. Jacqueline also shared her passion for supporting students and her recognition that we are the future of service delivery, noting that our actions now will continue to ripple through generations.

As a student midwife, I absolutely feel that. I feel the pressure, the privilege, and the desire to find my voice and to stand alongside my peers, to be part of the future of Midwifery.

About the author

Midwifery student Kayty Ricahrds, smiling, wearing uniform.

Kayty Richards
Midwifery student

I'm Kayty, a first-year Student Midwife and President of the Midwifery Society, Midwifery Rocks, here at the University. I'm passionate about caring and advocating for women, the power of kindness, and peer support.