Alicia Burnett is a fabulous addition to the spectacular student midwives series. Her passion and dedication to midwifery is evident through the projects she has been involved in. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Student Midwife Journal and has almost completed her studies to become a midwife.
1.Tell me about you, where you are from and what year you are in.
Hi! My name is Alicia Burnett and I am a final year student midwife based in London.
2. Why did you decide you wanted to become a midwife?
A number of the babies and children I worked with when I was a paediatric nurse, were under my care due to conditions that had developed during the antenatal, intrapartum or early postnatal period. However, I had little understanding of the care these infants and families received from maternity services. I was particularly interested in the role of the midwife and their contribution to maternal, fetal and neonatal health promotion throughout the childbirth continuum, consequently, I left nursing to pursue a career as a midwife.
3. How was the admissions process? Did you do any preparation before you applied? What was the process for writing a personal statement like?
My nursing training prepared me for the admissions process to an extent: I was familiar with UCAS as I had used the system to apply for my nursing degree, and I knew to submit my application in plenty of time to allow for any delays in receiving my reference. This previous experience also led me to anticipate the English and Maths tests and questions about my awareness of the role of the midwife. Prior to applying, I spoke to a student at my first-choice university to get a better idea of what being a student midwife is really like – the good, the bad and the ugly! With regard to writing my personal statement, I did some reading around things that were hot topics within maternity services at the time, and made sure it was thoroughly proof-read prior to submission.
4. What has been the highlight of your time so far?
I have been very lucky to experience multiple highlights throughout my training. I was honoured to be invited to contribute to the September 2020 issue of the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) Midwives magazine, to discuss the importance of decolonising the midwifery curriculum. I have also participated in Health Education England and International Confederation of Midwives webinars. Currently, I am working with a group of Black and Asian midwives to develop e-learning designed to improve maternity care outcomes for women, infants and families from Black, Asian and marginalised ethnic communities.
5. What have you not liked so much?
Midwifery is a very competitive field. This is the result of a number of things, such as limited practice placement spaces and midwifery lecturer shortages, both of which restrict the number of successful applicants each year. This competitiveness can translate into factions and hostility within midwifery cohorts and learning environments that are unsupportive and harmful to student well-being. The key to establishing a supportive and nurturing cohort is to establish mutual respect for one another from the outset. Remember, everyone in your cohort is your prospective colleague: students that feel able to ask questions in class without fear of ridicule, are more likely to become safe practitioners.
Make an effort to bond with your cohort. They will be like your family throughout your midwifery training — trust me! Make an effort to get to know each other, go for dinner, attend Fresher’s Week and start a WhatsApp group for your cohort. It is also a great idea to get actively involved in your midwifery society and midwifery societies at other universities too. Start building your network at the beginning of your degree to get your studies and career off to a good start!
6. Tell me 3 qualities that make an excellent midwife
1. The ability to put the people you care for first. This doesn’t mean neglecting yourself. It means placing women and birthing people at the centre of everything that you do, by facilitating informed consent, providing equitable care and using client preference to inform care provision.
2. Being a committed teacher. Students and expectant parents rely upon the education they receive from midwives. Practice supervisors play a huge role in making us the midwives we want to be. Similarly, the knowledge imparted by midwives can greatly affect people’s experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.
3. Being committed to learning from the women, birthing people and students they work with. Midwifery care needs to be personalised; this requires listening and responding to client wants and needs. Similarly, midwifery education needs to be tailored to student needs, and this can only be achieved by learning what students’ needs are.
7. What are your plans for when you qualify? Do you have any specific interests?
I want quite a lot from my first role as a qualified midwife! I want a rotational preceptorship at a progressive Trust that serves a racially and ethnically diverse population. I want to develop culturally sensitive and safe practice that is responsive to the care needs of ethnically marginalised women and families, because evidence shows that people from these groups have the worst obstetric outcomes. I also want to work somewhere that has/is developing continuity of care teams that welcome newly qualified midwives. Homebirth provision and a freestanding birth centre would be a bonus too!
8. What is the workload like, really?
Honestly? It. Is. A. Lot. Of. Work. Put the effort into understanding the basics in your first year, it forms a basis for truly understanding complications and their clinical management. Work at your own pace and don’t compare your rate of comprehension with that of anyone else. You are you. They are them. You will get there. Things didn’t begin to click for me until the end of my first year. I worked at my own pace until I got to where I needed to be.
9. Do you have any interesting placement stories that stand out? Remember to keep everything confidential, don’t name the hospital, staff or clients.
Yes – I have two! Both of which were memorable for two very different reasons. I have witnessed a shoulder dystocia, although I did not know that was what was occurring at the time (it happened before I had learnt about birth emergencies). Happily, mother and baby recovered well and both parents reported feeling well supported. This real-life experience supported my understanding of the psychological impact of birth emergencies upon women, birthing people, families and healthcare professionals. I also remember the first time I supported a woman to give birth on all fours. A junior student was present and I remember drawing her attention to the purple line and the Rhombus of Michaelis — it was the first time I had witnessed uninterrupted birth and physiological processes.
10. Give me a few random facts about yourself!
1. I adore quirky prints and huge earrings! I find that being a student can strip you of your individuality – you wear a uniform, now with PPE it is harder to see what anyone really looks like, and we are often referred to as “the student”. So, when I am not on placement, I really look forward to looking like myself again.
2. I lived in Finland for a year and would love to work there as a midwife one day.
11. What tips do you have for any prospective student midwives?
Please remember this: midwives serve ALL pregnant women and people. If you do not wish to care for ALL women, birthing people and babies I would recommend that you re-consider your suitability for midwifery. Everyone deserves equitable access to high-quality care, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or abilities. Equally, midwives are not a homogenous group, there is space for everyone in the midwifery workforce and it is imperative that the workforce becomes as diverse as the population it serves.
@_aliciaburnett on Instagram. @ABurnett_StMW on Twitter.