My placement diary: maternity ward placement
13 October 2021
Norland students gain extensive hands-on experience in a variety of settings during their course. One setting that students are very fortunate to have access to is the maternity ward at Bath’s Royal United Hospital (RUH). Ours are the only students, aside from medical or nursing students, to gain invaluable placement experience on a busy working hospital ward.
After graduating, Norlanders get access to an exciting programme of CPD events. One of the events organised is a newborn refresher which allows Norland Nannies a day’s training to refresh their knowledge and skills in working with newborn babies and their families.
In this blog, a student from each year group (known as sets at Norland) discusses the role they had on their maternity ward placement and what they learned from the experience.
“Hello, my name is Amira and I’m in Set 42. I’ve just finished the incredible three-year degree at Norland and I’m now embarking on the exciting journey of the Newly Qualified Nanny (NQN) year to complete my four-year diploma training. Before I came to Norland, I trained at a vocational dance school from the age of 11. However, the joy of looking after my houseparent’s children at my boarding house was too strong to ignore. This is when I found Norland and couldn’t think of a more rewarding and lovely career choice. Sadly, the first time I applied I didn’t get a place but after a year of gaining experience with children and reapplying, I was successful. So please don’t be disheartened if this happens to you and always keep trying!
At Norland, you’re sent on a variety of placements from which you’re able to gain invaluable experience and knowledge. The maternity ward placement is one of those. However, it’s slightly different as it’s only one week. You’ll be welcomed by the RUH hospital in Bath, which has so kindly accommodated this placement for many years.
During your time at the hospital, you’re able to shadow a midwife. This means you can witness many interesting situations like a baby weigh, a mother and baby check and a family discharge. From this, I gained lots of knowledge, such as how to check a newborn baby’s temperature, how much a newborn should be feeding and wetting their nappies and how much they should be sleeping. Additionally, I came to understand the symptoms to look out for if a baby has jaundice or dehydration, or a mother has pre-eclampsia. This information is so important to know in case I go on to support a mother with a newborn.
A large part of the maternity ward placement is helping mothers and fathers gain confidence. Most of my time at the hospital was spent making cups of teas and sitting and chatting with families. This was a great way to not only learn about their journey but also help them with any knowledge that many of them were so keen to obtain. I observed and helped mothers with breastfeeding, and spoke to them about changing nappies and topping and tailing, using what I’d learned from the practical masterclasses on the Norland diploma. Within the time that they were there, I saw many nervous women suddenly become so confident and keen to go home with their beautiful little babies.
Another aspect to this placement is supporting mothers whose newborns are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU ward is based on the floor below, but the mothers will have a bed on a ward upstairs. I helped one mum go down to the NICU a few times a day as the journey by foot was too hard for her. I also made sure that her breakfast and lunch was ready and kept to the side in case she missed the eating hours due to not being on the ward. As she was staying more nights than usual, I also changed her bedding and just generally chatted to her when she needed it. She was incredibly grateful and when her little boy came up to the maternity ward it was an incredible moment to be a part of.
All the parents and staff on the ward are really friendly and so grateful for everything that you can do to help. They are so busy that small jobs like changing bedding, making drinks and collecting things from the storeroom are such a great help for them. They also understand that they don’t have enough time to sit and chat to the families like we do, but this is such an important experience for the families. I’m extremely grateful for my maternity placement and everything that I took from it. I hope that everyone coming to Norland will put themselves forward for this experience!”
Emily – first-year experience
“My name is Emily and I’m in Set 44. Before starting at Norland, I completed my CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education at a college in Hampshire and gained experience in a nursery, infant school and an organisation which supported children with disabilities. In my first year at Norland, I undertook a variety of placements including experience on a maternity ward.
During my maternity ward placement, I was able to observe a Maternity Care Assistant (MCA) performing checks on mothers and their babies. I was allowed to hold and undress the babies to help the MCA complete their checks. This placement gave me some great new skills to use in future practice. For example, how to support a mum while she’s breastfeeding and the positions to hold a baby in, things to look out for with newborns such as ensuring the umbilical cord is dry, looking for rashes and checking bodily functions are normal, identifying signs of jaundice and what treatment is required if a baby has jaundice.
Throughout the day, I made sure all the mums were happy and checked if they needed anything, for example something to eat or drink. l cared for their babies while they had a shower or a scan to attend. Throughout the day, I fed the babies, responded to calls of assistance from mums and called for a midwife if they required medical support, and cared for the babies when needed.
The whole experience has given me a privileged insight into how a maternity ward operates on a daily basis. I enjoyed meeting other members of staff, hearing about their experiences on the ward and learning from them while shadowing. I found the maternity ward placement very fulfilling because I was able to support and care for newborns, some of whom were only a couple of hours old.”
Lucy – second-year experience
“My name is Lucy and I’m in Set 43. After taking time out of mainstream education to support my mental wellbeing, I volunteered at a primary school for a year. I loved my time and getting to know the children but discovered that I wanted to work with children on a more individual basis. I studied my ALevels from home, allowing me to gain more experience babysitting and to volunteer with my local Beaver colony (the first and youngest section of the Scout Group for young people aged between six and eight years). I have just begun my third year at Norland.
As part of our course, we’re offered the unique opportunity to volunteer on the maternity ward at the Royal United Hospital in Bath for a week. I completed the maternity ward placement with my housemate. We completed four eight-hour shifts, shadowing the maternity care assistants (MCAs) working on the pre-natal ward (where women come to be induced) and the post-natal ward (where mothers and babies stay if they need to be observed following birth).
A standard day started with us arriving, signing in to the ward and greeting the staff who were working that shift. Then we would help the MCA and the housekeeper to ensure that all the women had some breakfast, fresh water and a cup of tea or coffee, if they would like one. Afterwards, we might observe and assist the MCA in performing the mother and baby checks, which is a check carried out every day to ensure they’re both healthy. We were also able to observe the doctor as he carried out a NIPE assessment (new-born infant physical examination, which takes place within three days of a child being born and screens children for conditions relating to the heart, eyes and hips) on a baby who was due to be discharged.
Throughout the morning, we’d answer call bells. The women might need more sanitary supplies, feeding supplies, water or fresh bedding. Some mothers asked us to look after their babies while they went to the toilet or had a shower. Some needed help that we couldn’t provide, such as more painkillers and we would alert their assigned midwife to this. If any women left the pre-natal ward to go down to delivery or were discharged from the post-natal ward, we would clean and disinfect their bed area and re-make the bed ready for the next patient.
At lunchtime, we would again ensure that every woman had something to eat and fresh water if they needed it. After having our own lunch, we’d return to answering call bells as well as completing any tasks the MCA or midwives asked us to do. This might be returning a trolley to the delivery suite, supplying water to a newly arrived patient or fetching specific supplies for them. We were able to weigh a baby and assist in a nappy change. One day, we also looked after a baby while mum was taken for a scan which included beginning a bottle feed until dad arrived and was able to take over. Our most important role was making the women feel comfortable and cared for.
This was such a unique opportunity, unlike any of my other placement experiences so far. It gave me an insight into the first few hours and days of a baby’s life – I’d forgotten quite how tiny they are! I saw just how hard the midwives, maternity care assistants and all the staff work to look after the mothers and babies. I felt my confidence increase as I went through the week, interacting with new people every day and using my initiative to be as helpful as possible. I met so many women from different backgrounds, with different birth experiences and different feeding choices. It was a great reminder of how every baby has a different start to life but their basic needs remain the same: to be fed, comforted and made to feel safe.”