Dominique is a clinical doctorate midwife. She is currently recruiting and data collecting for her randomised controlled trial, ‘Using a birth ball at home in the latent phase to reduce pain perception’, which is based on the Isle of Wight. Alice is a student midwife who joined Dominique for a week as a Research Assistant as part of her final year elective placement. A research elective is a recommended learning opportunity to experience research in the thick of midwifery practice.

Alice’s story

In the third year at Bournemouth University we have the option to complete short elective placements. My interest was spiked by this alternative opportunity to spend a week on the Isle of Wight with a clinical doctorate midwife, Dominique Mylod, as her research assistant. This interested me for a few reasons including, getting to know how someone might “get in to research”, the potential to impact maternity care, how conducting research affects someone’s identity as a midwife and not least because it meant a week on the IOW in what has been the hottest summer of my life so far! So off I went to spend a week working on the BALL Trial, a randomised controlled trial exploring the use of a birth ball in the latent phase of labour.

After detailed discussions about the trial I felt I knew all things BALL and on our first day together, Dominique and I took the RedJet commute down the Solent. Our purpose was to consent women who had expressed an interest in participating in the BALL Trial. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was lots of face-to-face interaction with women and their families involved in consenting and the trial as a whole, part of the draw to a caring profession.

During our clinical shifts, I saw first-hand the buzz created by the research. Maternity staff were excited and involved with recruiting participants and supporting the trial. Nearly everyone we passed asked Dominique how things were coming along, and it was so lovely to see the positivity and community created by the research. Equally this ‘community’ sense was felt amongst our participants as we discovered that Dominque and the trial was the talk of island pregnancy-related social media! Women were keen to be involved and felt that by participating they were positively impacting the experiences of future mothers-to-be, which I found really powerful.

Dominque thoroughly explained the process of application for ethical approval through the online Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) - no small feat! I learnt how to use online sampling programmes to randomly allocate participants and the essential organisation of research related admin.

We spent our last day gathering 5 consents, but in between we managed to sneak in a posh coffee and gluten free cake at a Farm Shop & Café, a brief walk on Ventnor beach in the sun and a cuddle with the donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary (heaven, by the way).

My elective with Dominque reassured me that actually, research is accessible and a tangible option. Midwifery research is not an abstract concept for highly intelligent academics far away from the midwives in community and on the floor; research can be inclusive, positive and in the thick of day to day midwifery. Undertaking a clinical doctorate programme is as much about determination, longevity and passion as about anything else. Sound familiar? I think surely these are qualities that we all possess as midwives and student midwives.

If the opportunity arises I couldn’t recommend an elective placement like this more. I can’t promise that the PhD student you shadow will be as passionate, helpful and kind as Dominique but you will learn a great deal and be inspired.