Professor Susan Way has been working alongside BU academics, practising midwives and chiropractors, student midwives and BU Postgraduate Research (PGR) students to develop, implement and research inter-professional student-led clinics.

Whilst leading a curriculum review, feedback from staff in clinical practice, university midwifery education leads across the UK as well as student midwives highlighted that some NHS services changes were having a negative impact on the ability of student midwives to effectively gain enough practical experience in areas such as breastfeeding and postnatal care. Their lack of clinical competence in these areas was jeopardising the successful completion of their undergraduate programme.

Susan along with experienced midwifery colleagues, Dr Alison Taylor and Dr Wendy Marsh, believed that in order to address the problem there needed to be a radical rethink around how student midwives gained their experience in these practice areas.

Student-led clinics as a source of education are limited in the UK but Susan and her colleagues could visualise the benefits that these types of clinics would bring to the student experience, ensuring their learning could be meaningfully applied in practice. Key to their success would be the early and continued inclusion of clinical practice colleagues working in maternity and chiropractic services.

Susan worked with Alison and Wendy to maximise their combined experience and expertise alongside experienced practitioners in the NHS and the chiropractic field to develop and implement two new student-led clinics in the area of postnatal care and breastfeeding. An example from one of the clinics is offered:

Based at the AECC University College, the newborn infant feeding clinic, under the supervision of experienced practitioners, student midwives and chiropractic interns work collaboratively to support mothers and babies who present with an array of complex breastfeeding problems. These may include poor weight gain, one sided breast preference and painful breastfeeding. Student midwives gain confidence and competence in history taking to ensure that the support provided is individualised and meaningful to the mother whilst the chiropractic interns diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems in the baby.

Having a robust sector-wide means of sharing and influencing this innovative practice was also an important factor in the project thus co-sponsoring two PhD students to research the clinics was important. For PhD students Dana Colbourne (a qualified midwife) and Amy Miller (a qualified chiropractor) not only was their research  important to understanding the benefits and challenges of offering such clinics but the process provided the experience of working on  a real-life research project that had the potential to make a huge difference to society.

Professor Susan Way

Professor Susan Way

Professor of Midwifery Education

These student-led clinics provide a positive practical learning environment for midwifery and chiropractic students, who have the opportunity to work alongside experienced colleagues who are able to give them practical advice and guidance on the spot. Plus women and families who attend the clinics receive high quality midwifery care.

The concept of the postnatal clinic is currently being rolled out to two further community postnatal clinics within the catchment area of Portsmouth NHS Foundation Trust, enabling more student midwives to benefit from the experience. The concept is also being adapted for the postnatal ward environment within the hospital.

Not only has this work been of benefit to student midwives, the PGR students’ research findings will be of value to other health care professions and UK and international audiences beyond the field of midwifery by evidencing the benefits of inter-professional student-led clinics. BU has also been recognised as a leader in providing high quality postnatal care experience for students and the uniqueness of these clinics has attracted interest from across the globe, resulting in international oral and poster presentations. As a team Susan and her colleagues have been recognised for their excellence with a nomination for the NHS Education SHINE Award: High Performing Education and Training Team of the Year.

Gill Walton, former Director of Maternity Services at Portsmouth NHS Foundation Trust said “Sue was instrumental in setting up the SMiLE clinic (student midwife led postnatal clinics) in response to the changing model of care which was reducing midwifery students’ exposure to normal postnatal care. Sue was a key advocate of the positive relationship between the university and the service and consistently collaborated with the service to support students, service development and research in practice.”