It's not just the learners who benefit from their placements with practising midwives, according to research by Senior Lecturer Emma Bilous.

"Asking any midwife what she remembers of being a student midwife brings tales of nervousness and anxiety, balanced with stories of kindly wise midwives whose words you still hear to this day. Midwives can usually easily conjure their own student memories, but probably very few have paused to think what the experience of having a student was like for the midwife. This paradox, where the relationship between student midwife and midwife is important enough to be forever etched into our memories, but has all the focus on one partner, was the seed for this thesis.

"I wanted to bring the experiences of the midwives in these formative relationships from the shadows. I was intrigued, from my own experiences of working with student midwives on practice placements in my years as a Lead Maternity Care (LMC) midwife and in my current role in midwifery education. I wondered whether formally exploring the experiences of midwives working with student midwives would support my own feelings that midwives as well as students benefitted from the relationship. This exploration seemed worthy as I was unable to find any literature that had directly considered this.

"From this came my research question “what are the benefits for midwives of working with student midwives?” The study used to explore this question was qualitative in design, using a self-selecting sample of ten LMC midwives who participated in semi-structured interviews. An Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach was used to consider what the benefits might be as opposed to any negative aspects of the relationship. The data was analysed using thematic analysis and the findings grouped into three main themes of sustaining midwifery, enhancing midwifery practice and affirming midwifery ways of knowing and being.

"The study was underpinned by a theoretical feminist standpoint of otherness. As midwifery is a predominantly female profession it is the other to dominant gender norms. This standpoint was also evident in the outcomes from the study, where the discussion and conclusions reflect the context of being the other. This otherness liberated the midwives to behave differently in a relationship that would otherwise conform to traditional roles of teacher and student or expert to novice and allowed reciprocity to flourish.

"The benefits that midwives gain from working with student midwives were multi-layered and more complex than I had anticipated. The midwives often describe seemingly small singular choices that had far reaching impacts, such as sustaining the midwifery profession to influence the position of women in society in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The depths of the benefits gained led to the recommendation that midwives be incentivised to work with student midwives, so these benefits may be enjoyed more widely. Further, that student midwives may understand the contribution they make to the profession even before they are registered midwives."

Emma Bilous' thesis was supervised by Christine Griffiths and Dr Jean Patterson. 

July 2019