Diary of a Student Midwife – My Experience of Best Start
By Helen Kaye, student midwife, University of West of Scotland on 31 August 2021
My name is Helen, and I am a first, nearly second, year student midwife at University of the West of Scotland (UWS). I am writing a few blog posts for MIDIRS, sharing my experiences of life as a student midwife, intended to help current and aspiring student midwives alike. My twitter and Instagram handles are both @pathtomidwifery, feel free to get in touch and let us know what you would like to see from these blog posts.
I was lucky enough to have two of my three first-year placements in Best Start, the Scottish continuity-based model of care (The Scottish Government, 2017). Best Start is a Scottish Government initiative, with a focus on continuity-based care with the aim of improving maternity care and experiences of maternity services. When signing up for placements, you can tick whether or not you’d like to take part in a Best Start placement. I was lucky enough to be allocated a Best Start placement for a total of 13 weeks.
I’ll start by explaining how Best Start Midwives works, but to give you the general idea, think modern-day Call the Midwife. I was with a team of eight midwives, each with a caseload of 25-35 women, depending on their contracted hours. For these women on their caseload, the midwife is their primary care provider. The midwives also have a work phone, the number for which their women are given, and they can text or phone their midwife for any help or advice during working hours, 9am-5pm. For their caseload, the midwife will carry out the woman’s first point of contact, booking, all antenatal appointments, arrange and attend any consultant clinic required, and all postnatal care up to day 10. The midwives also do twelve-hour on-call shifts, twice a week, meaning that all women cared for by the Best Start team will have their intrapartum care delivered by a midwife within the team, whom they will have previously met. Sometimes, fate works in our favour and women from the midwife’s own caseload go into labour whilst they’re on call, which is just amazing.
I feel so privileged to have witnessed true continuity in action and to have been first-hand witness to its amazing benefits. Every woman I asked couldn’t praise the care model highly enough; continuity allows the midwife-woman relationship to flourish and in turn leads to a deeper trust in their midwife, and a higher quality of care being delivered. Research backs up my experience, with continuity-of-carer models leading to decreased intervention and increased maternal satisfaction (Sandall et al., 2016).
During my time in Best Start, I was lucky enough to care for women from their twenty-eight-week appointment, right through to intrapartum care, and ten-days postnatally. This was such an incredibly rewarding experience, with some women giving me verbal feedback that they felt so much more at ease with a familiar face at the birth. I think that sums up the beauty of Best Start and continuity, midwifery is all about supporting women, and by building a meaningful relationship with them over time, your mere presence can reassure and support her.
I would really encourage anyone who is given the opportunity to undertake a similar placement to go for it! I loved my time in Best Start; it was such an all-round, enriching learning experience and I hope to work in a similar continuity care model in the future as a qualified midwife.
Sandall, J., Soltani, H., Gates, S., Shennan, A. and Devane, D. (2016) ‘Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4.
The Scottish Government. (2017) The Best Start: A Five-Year Forward Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care in Scotland. Available here.