My rural midwifery placement – during a global pandemic

Written by Josey Steel, UTS Bachelor of Midwifery student

At the beginning of 2020, my third year (and final) of of midwifery, I had some exciting plans – with the most exciting being a rural placement in Gove (Northern Territory) at the end of first semester!

As you can imagine, in the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19 this placement was cancelled due to the Northern Territory closing its borders to New South Wales. I took the initiative to contact the Clinical Practice Unit (CPU), seriously the most lovely people with the incredibly difficult job of allocating every UTS Heath student with clinical placements, and I asked if there was any (even the slightest) chance that they would be able to find me a rural placement in NSW in second semester.

At that stage, I had submitted my application for my New Graduate year with NSW Health for 2021 – as I will be graduating at the end of this year (finally!), with Orange Hospital at the top of my preference list. After a number of back and forth emails with CPU they were able to allocate me with a two-week placement at Orange Health Service (OHS) in August!

August rolls around and off I go, packing up my car and doing the 3.5hr drive over to Orange. I was fortunate to be provided accommodation in the nursing quarters on the hospital grounds for $10 per night (how amazing, I know!) and settled in before my first day.

Parked outside the nursing quarters after I arrived

Day 1:

I woke up extra early, mostly nerves / a little bit of excitement, and did the 10-minute walk across the frosty ground – past the kangaroos – to the hospital. As per the COVID-19 guidelines I had my temperature checked at the hospital entry and was asked if I had been to any hotspots – luckily at that stage it was only Victoria. I muddled my way through the directions I was given (but hadn’t listened to properly because I was too nervous) and finally found the maternity ward, where I was greeted by the wonderful Orange midwives who put me at ease immediately. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur of trying to remember the names of people who introduced themselves to me and where everything was! What I won’t forget is how welcomed I felt, all the midwives were curious about where I was in my degree and which hospital I was based at in Sydney.

Walking to the hospital on Day 1

Day 3:

This was my first day working in the ‘labour ward’ at OHS. I worked alongside one of the Orange Midwifery Group Practice (OMGP) midwives you support a woman having her first baby. It was an eventful shift – I cut my first episiotomy (under supervision of course) and managed not to pass out, I caught baby number 29 (of the 30 I need to register as a midwife!), and I ended up staying back for 3hrs to assist in the immediate postnatal care after the birth of the baby because I didn’t want to leave!

Day after catching baby no. 29

I spent the weekend with my partner who recently moved to Wellington, just over 1hr from Orange, where he is working as a paramedic. Unfortunately, whilst I was there it SNOWED in Orange, and I completely missed it!

With my partner in Wellington in the sunshine, while it was snowing in Orange

Day 7:

I joined one of the community midwives on postnatal home visits. We visited a range of families, from a young woman struggling to breastfeed her first baby, to a woman who’s baby had recently been discharged from the hospital after being born prematurely and spending a number of weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Sydney prior to being transferred back to Orange. That afternoon my partner popped down from Wellington to visit me and we explored the beautiful Orange Botanical Gardens.

Orange Botanical Gardens

Day 10:

My final day at OHS. I was sad to leave and made sure to write down my feelings in a card to leave on the table in the tea-room, with some chocolate of course! I reflected on my time there, working across the postnatal ward, the labour ward, in the antenatal clinics, in the operating theatre, with the unwell babies in the special care nursery, and in women’s homes in the community. It was a fantastic experience to see the inner workings of a maternity unit in a hospital other than Royal North Shore, my home hospital for the 3 years of my Bachelor of Midwifery.

Here’s a list of the main differences I noted:

  • At OHS the women having their first babies are much younger, I cared for a few women the same age as me who were having their 3rd / 4th babies!
  • When discharging women from the postnatal ward at OHS pain management for the journey home is a key consideration, some women have travelled 2+ hours to Orange to give birth.
  • There was greater consideration to use of resources in the regional setting – and no grip lok Foley catheter securement stickers (if you know, you know)!

With any luck (probably a lot of luck) I will be a new graduate midwife at OHS next year, fingers crossed! I’m grateful for the experience to get an insight into working at a different hospital, even though it was amidst a global pandemic, and would recommend for all future third year Bachelor of Midwifery students to jump on any opportunity to undertake a rural / regional placement.

The view from the tea-room at OHS
Is it even placement if you don’t take a bathroom selfie in your UTS uniform?

Find out more about studying midwifery at UTS

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