I started the journey towards gaining my doctorate in 2013. As a newly qualified midwife at the time, it was important for me to retain the clinical skills that I had worked so hard to gain. The Clinical Academic Doctorate route gave me the opportunity to remain in practice alongside my studies. The research, commissioned by Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust in collaboration with Bournemouth University, focused on exploring women’s decision-making. Specifically my research was assessing the impact of the MyBirthplace app, which was developed by the trust.
MyBirthplace is a decision support tool that provides pregnant women with information about the choices of place to give birth enabling them to make the most informed decision possible. The risks and benefits of home births, midwife-led care in both an alongside midwifery led unit and standalone unit and consultant-led care are all detailed in the app, which is also adjusted to meet location requirements of the woman. The findings of my research suggest that women felt more decisive about choosing a location for birth after accessing the app. Women felt that the information in the app was informative and easy to understand. Women generally accessed the app on their own at home rather than with the midwives. Choice of place of birth is an area that is facing challenges in the current crisis, with many changes to the options available to women. It is a time of great anxiety for women and their families, despite continued support from midwives.
I was awarded my doctorate on time in 2017 with thanks to the support of amazing supervisors’ Professor Vanora Hundley, Dr Carol Bond and Dr Carol Wilkins. Subsequently I won the Dr Eleanor Bond Prize for my thesis. This is an award that recognises elements of course work or a project that makes a valuable contribution to the provision or the management of primary health care. I was also the youngest midwife in the United Kingdom (UK) to achieve a PhD.
Completing the Clinical Academic Doctorate put me in a position where I could continue to hone my midwifery skills, and be active and present in clinical practice while also setting myself up with all the research skills needed to pursue many of the academic and research career options. I am now both a midwifery lecturer and, following the birth of my son in April 2019, I will soon be returning to practice too. Despite the extremely trying times with the current global pandemic midwives are continuing to provide care to women and their families, because being a midwife is not just a job it is a calling.