A mature student studying at BU’s Portsmouth Campus, Becky previously worked in Human Resources before realising that she could achieve her dream to make a difference delivering new-borns as a midwife.

“I had a bit of a different life before studying at BU but my past role, where I worked with people, has helped me. I used to work in retail for a large commercial company at head office, dealing with human resources. I’ve always been a bit of a people person and I already have a degree in Social Studies, but when I had children, my outlook on things changed and I felt that I didn’t want to work for someone else, I wanted to make a difference. When I started the course I said that, if nothing else, I can talk to people.”

For Becky, a family feel was everything, so Portsmouth Campus made her feel at home straight away, and the practical, hands-on experiences of her academic staff were something that she appreciated.

“Portsmouth Campus is a lot smaller, and for me, it’s worked out really well – it couldn’t be any better. As a mature student, I was less interested in joining clubs, and really just wanted to become a midwife. I’m currently working at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, where I do all of my hospital-based work and I also work in the city of Portsmouth where I do all of my community work.

Becky Weston - healthcare heroes

“BU worked really well for me because, with smaller cohorts of around 24 midwives, we are all very close, like a family, at Portsmouth Campus. We all know each other, the year groups all know each other and inter-mingle really well, which is invaluable from an experience point of view. It’s easy to speak to the year above you about what’s coming up; we all support each other and we’re able to be fully immersed in midwifery.

“I’m really enjoying my course. Midwifery here is just so varied, so you’re able to see everything, it’s not just about babies and women giving birth. For example, in the community we see women antenatally right through their pregnancy, and then postnatally as well. All of the lecturers at Portsmouth Campus are academics who have been midwives in the past or are still practicing midwifery, so we get a really good level of understanding from those that have done the job and have the experience under their belt.”

Becky believes that a degree of autonomy is important for students in healthcare, with mentors offering indirect supervision in order to allow students to fully experience the role, while being on-hand to offer advice and guidance when needed.

“As you work your way through the course, you’re with mentors that you work with time and time again, get to know you and your competencies, and often offer indirect supervision, especially when caring for low-risk women. It is not unusual for me to be left alone with a woman while she is in labour to help her through her labour experience, with a midwife overseeing me. It’s such an amazing learning experience for us and we’ve gained so much knowledge while having time to become your own practitioner – it’s always safe because you are overseen indirectly by your mentor, but it gives you a chance to talk to the mother and get to know exactly what the mother wants.”

“At BU, we also have a SMILE clinic, which stands for student midwifery integrated learning experience, it’s a clinic designed for students at Portsmouth Campus to care for all women postnatally and look after them, with a mixture of first, second and third years taking part. Third years run the clinic, oversee the first years and support second years, overseen by a midwife. This helps us, as students, to be independent and to become our own practitioners without a mentor, which is fantastic.”

But there are also plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in the profession outside of practicing, such as becoming a student representative for the course, learning about the safeguarding elements of healthcare, and looking at various areas of research.

“I’m a student representative for my cohort and also Vice-Chair of the Student Midwifery Council at BU which organises midwifery conferences twice a year, one in September when our third years graduate and another in February when the February cohort graduate too. This involves us getting in touch with keynote speakers from around the country who give up their time to come and talk to us, for example, last September we had both the outgoing and incoming presidents of the Royal College of Midwifery, so we had amazing talks from both.

“Midwifery has a very large safeguarding element to it, which I suppose, before I started the course, I didn’t really ever think about. Then you start the course and realise that this is a massive part of it, not just safeguarding babies but women as well, keeping them safe and making sure that they are safe to go home with their babies. Sometimes it’s as subtle as “will this lady be able to care for her baby appropriately?” or “does the mother have the parenting skills herself to be able to care for the baby?”

“We also have clinical practitioners coming in to talk to us with people talking about safeguarding, female genital mutilation, and perhaps things that people don’t see every day in their working environments which are really informative things for us to know about.

“We practice evidence-based care, so when we talk to women about choices they may need to make, we need to know about the most current and up-to-date evidence and we are lucky that there is more research being done in our field, which we are able to pass onto women that enables them to make more informed choices about their care.”

BU’s work in training the midwives of tomorrow runs concurrent to that of training other disciplines across the NHS.

“Most of the mentors that I worked with have trained at BU and I know people from the year above that have gone on to work in Southampton – you’re always bumping into BU students. When we go to Talbot and Lansdowne Campuses to do our professional units, it’s really interesting to see all of the other sections of healthcare at BU. There are things that we are able to learn from them, having different takes on things. For example, we don’t tend to deal with ill people or ‘patients’ in midwifery, so for us, we talk a lot about informed choice, decisions and care plans that are made alongside women, which is very different to the work of others, like paramedics, for example.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the NHS has been cuts made to various services, such as those affecting postnatal care in midwifery. Caseload midwifery care, a situation in which a mother is able to see the same midwife throughout her pregnancy is something that Becky would like to see more of in the future. 

“Due to NHS cuts, midwives don’t generally offer as much postnatal care as they used to, it’s one of the big things that has been cut over the last few years. As students we still need to gain experience in this area as part of our degree, which is why the SMILE clinics help so much, because we are able to see these women postnatally. If midwives are able to see the same woman repeatedly, we are able to judge much better about how she is coping mentally. This is a big highlight for us, making sure that the mother is not becoming continually depressed.

“We take part in caseloading, something that BU was one of the first universities to do, whereby we go from the booking of the birthing room at seven or eight weeks pregnant, caring for the mother antenatally, being on call for their labour and birth, and then caring for them postnatally through to discharge, while overseen by our community mentors. I looked after two women with lots of home visits which you are able to do as a student. These are really useful because you are not restricted to 20 minute appointments, so you can take your time.  

“For me, I’d like to see more continuity in the service, which is something that both mothers and midwives would like because if you are able to see a woman throughout the whole pregnancy, you are attuned to them and can see subtle differences in them. Evidence shows that outcomes are better when a pregnancy has been case-loaded.”

For more information about midwifery at Bournemouth University, visit the course pages of the BU website