Preparing for a new semester

It’s not long at all until I start back in college for my second year. I’ve been getting organised, in between work and seeing friends and family, and I thought I’d share my routine with you!

 

First thing I do is organise my notes from the previous semester. After exams, my notes are in a total shambles, so I have to put everything back in order before I do anything else. It’s good for refreshing my memory on what we’ve already covered as well.

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Next, I get my big binder. You can buy them new but there’s always a local office ready to throw out a pile of them so try asking around. They’re usually happy to get rid of them, you don’t have to pay for them, and in the end you’ve managed to save something from the dump which is great for the planet!

 

My college has a website which lets you browse through the modules on different courses, I think most do. I use it to look ahead and see what modules I’ll have, what kind of assessments there are for each of them, and what kind of content there is. It gives me a rough idea of what the semester will look like. If you can get chatting to someone on the course, definitely do it! Their first hand experience is really helpful.

 

This one is fairly important: find your uniform! Every little bit – fob watches, shoes, ID cards, whatever you need. Anything that can be washed, give it a wash. My uniforms sit in a bag for months when they’re not used so I like to freshen them up and make sure I have everything.

 

I also check things like my backpack and food containers for any sign of damage or wearing down. I bought a new (cheap) backpack during first year and didn’t check it but found a big tear in the top of it on a rainy day – not ideal. So throw an eye over your everyday pieces and make sure they don’t need repair or replacement.

 

Next, I get out my planner (I always buy from the Happy Planner Company). Any dates like study breaks, placement blocks, birthdays, deadlines…they all go in as soon as I can write them down. I am one of those people who can’t function without some kind of diary and I always recommend people use one whether it’s a big paper one or an app on your phone.

 

One of the last things I do is look at stationary. I make sure I have all my bits and pieces for college and for placement before  go to the shops. Usually all I have to buy is black pens and refill pads. I’m a really visual learner so I try to have a good stock of colourful pencils and markers for my notes.

 

How do you get organised?

 

 

 

 

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How I stay organised in college

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten in the past few weeks is how I organise my notes for college. This is just my own little way of organising things, it’s what has worked for me personally. It might be totally different for you. Trying a few different things will help you figure out what works for you. This system might even change for me in second year, change again in third year..it’s all about adapting to what you need.

 

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So first thing I look at is my main folder. For now, I use one giant ring binder for each semester. Within that folder I have a few dividers to keep my notes for each module separate.

 

 

In each module section I have the module descriptor, so I can keep track of what exactly I should have done and what’s coming next. It’s especially useful for figuring out which topics I need to revise at the end of the semester. I print off almost all of my notes (I swear I do love the planet but I just can’t read off a screen), pop them in each section, and try to make one page summaries of each piece as we finish covering them in class to make revision easier.

 

As well as all these sections for each module, I keep a calendar at the very front. I buy a pack of week-to-week sheets from Flying Tiger (see the picture on the right below). Because our timetable is constantly changing it’s a much easier way for me to keep track of where I need to be. I write in the topics we cover in each class at the end of the day. I keep track of my placement hours, extracurricular activities, and study plans in these weekly charts too. I also have the full year plan at the very front, so I can look ahead to placements, exam weeks, breaks, anything.

I put together all of my assessments in one document which I keep near the front of the ring binder. It reminds me of the assignments every time I open the folder, and lets me keep track of deadlines and learning objectives.

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For my every day notes, I try to keep things as small and light as I can. It saves my back and leaves more room for snacks in my bag too. I bring one plastic envelope folder, which I aim to sort out the night before so that I can enjoy those extra few minutes in bed instead of pulling apart my ring binder looking for the right notes. In writing this post I’ve had the idea that maybe I should keep my weekly planner pages in that folder too – I’ll try it out and see if it makes any difference.

 

We only have one or two written assignments per semester, so I keep those in separate folders. I always end up printing heaps of research for assignments so I prefer to keep them out of my regular class notes. If I need to refer back to them for something it’s a little easier to pull out the right part.

 

And then I have my giant placement folder. I keep copies of my placement evaluations and learning objectives in here, as well as copies of my clinical skills book. I have a record of every day that I attended placement, the hours I worked, and the names of my preceptors, as well as the guidelines for my scope of practice for every placement. If I get any handouts or take any notes I keep them in here as well. The folder is pretty full already after just one year so I might need to take a few bits out and store them somewhere else. Remember, it’s all about adapting to changes during your course!

So last year before I started my course I wrote an essentials list for midwifery students (which you can read here). After a year of working with what I had and envying some of the things my classmates had, I thought it would be a good idea to update a little! This is the placement list, for when you’re on the wards with women every day.

 

Black pens: this will never change. Buy a hundred. Keep them in your placement bags, your folder, your locker, your pockets. Don’t do what I do and stick them in your hair because 1. bacteria and 2. you’ll hug someone and poke them in the eye with it.

Fob watches: multiple fob watches. Preferably silicone because they’re easier to clean and there are no nooks and crannies for microbes to hide in.

Small notebook: to scribble down notes, medications, disorders, lab values…really anything and everything on placement. I prefer ring bound notebooks because they hold up a little better being pulled out of my pockets and jammed back in with pens and gloves and all the other junk in my pockets.

Hair ties and pins: to keep your hair neat. I also found myself giving women my bobbins a lot, especially on the labour ward. So now I always bring a few extra.

A journal: I love love love my reflective journal. It’s another purchase from the Happy Planner Company but any wee notebook will be perfect. It’s a really good way of working through your day once it’s over and you get a chance to sit down. Always always always keep confidentiality in mind when you’re writing. I came up with a few different ways of coding the identities of people in my care so now when I read back even I’m  not 100% sure who’s who!

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The second week of my first placement really only starts tomorrow – I've two long days and a short day, and I'm ready for it. I have to confess, like lots of other humans probably do, I was having a bit of a wobble. I was overthinking and raising expectations for myself that no one else was. But I sat down with my @thehappyplanner_co reflective journal, wrote about my last shift (Thursday) and everything just felt better. Writing has always been great therapy for me, it's the way I work things out. Don't forget to find the right way to work things out for yourself ✨ . . . . . . . . #studentmidwife #futuremidwife #reflectivemidwife #reflectivepractice #reflectivejournal #midwiferyjournal #midwiferystudent #babycatcher

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Snacks: so many snacks. Different kinds – sweet, savoury, energy boosting, chocolate goodness. Think about what will be filling but not too heavy and what will give you a lasting energy lift for those long shifts.

Water bottle: label it. Label it all over. Hydration is super important and especially so when you’re running around non stop all day.

Spare socks: your feet will get sweaty. Like really sweaty, so sometimes it’s just nice to change them during the day. When I used to work in a nursing home, especially in the summer when it was boiling hot and the heating was on full blast, it was lovely to sit down, throw a bit of talc on my toes, and put on fresh socks. Also you will definitely get some kind of bodily fluid all over and inside your shoes at some stage, so be ready!

Spare uniform: just in case.

Plastic bags: for bringing uniforms in and out. It’s a habit I picked up working in McDonald’s, basically to protect the clothes and protect your belongings from contact contamination.

Reference book: I have my survival guide in my locker all the time on placement. It’s just handy to have it there if I want to check anything on my breaks or go over something like a skill that I know I’ll be doing later in the day.

Deodorant: spray and roll on. Spray deodorant can irritate the respiratory system especially if they have disorders like asthma. I bring face wipes and bits like that as well just so I can freshen up during the day.

 

So that’s my take on the essentials for placement. If you think I’ve missed anything let me know in the comments! Keep an eye out for “what’s in my pocket” posts for the various wards you work on as a student midwife.

So last year before I started my course I wrote an essentials list for midwifery students (which you can read here). After a year of working with what I had and envying some of the things my classmates had, I thought it would be a good idea to update a little! This is the college list, for when you’re in every day. The placement list will be posted soon!

 

Plastic folders: I prefer to use one plastic envelope folder for all my class notes everyday. It’s pretty durable, keeps all the notes safe from leaking bottles or rain soaking through my bag. I also find that I’m less likely to forget things if it’s all in one folder that I ideally prep the night before.

Ringbinders: I used one gigantic ringbinder to keep all my notes from the semester. So I’ve one for first semester and one for second semester of first year and I plan on doing the same for second year. I have little dividers in to separate each module (and everything is colour coded).

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Notebooks: whatever you want to write in. I use unlined A4 paper, one book at a time rather than one book per module just to reduce how much I’m carrying around.

Pens, pencils, highlighters: all the regular stationary bits. My pro tip comes from my mam – I have tendonitis in the hand I write with so during my Leaving Cert my mam bought me like a million pens with all different widths. When my hand started to get sore I just changed to a pen of a different size.

The books: The two main books are Mayes and Myles. I do not recommend buying a textbook before you start. Wait until you get in, talk to the lecturers, and have a nosy at the different kinds of books in the library. Textbooks are pretty expensive (I paid about €45 for my Mayes on http://www.bookdepository.com). However you’re probably safe enough investing in a skills book like this one.

A diary: I have always gone with the Happy Planner Company but any planner will do the job as long as it fits your needs. Your timetable will likely change from time to time during the semester, and midwifery comes with a fairly busy schedule so it’s important to keep track of things somewhere you can check easily. Some people use their phones which is perfectly fine, I’m just a pen and paper kind of person.

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💐BACK IN STOCK💐Super excited that our student #Midwifery week to view format planners are now back in stock 😍 Those of you who preordered and are awaiting yours, they are being posted out today and tomorrow! If you’re awaiting a birth register with your planner, the set will be posted out after our birth registers arrive (hopefully!) at the end of this week❤️🎉! Make sure you order if you haven’t yet, delivery times may start to increase over the next few weeks as we steam in to our busy season! Paramedic, ODP and nursing planners in stock too! #thehappyplannercompany #midwifery #midwives #midwife #midwifelife #midwiferystudent #studentmidwife #studentmidwives #studentmidwifelife #midwiferyupdate #futuremidwife #midwifeinthemaking #midwivesrock #healthcare #inittogether

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Reusable coffee cup: you will drink copious amounts of your favourite hot drink throughout your career, and it’ll start in college. Lots of colleges and cafés offer discounts for using your own cup which is great for saving money as well. And you’ll be helping the environment, which is good for everyone, especially all the babies you help into the world.

A decent lunchbox: I went for an insulated thermos type lunchbox, purely because I prefer my dinner in the middle of the day rather than the evening. It’s not a bad idea to invest in a really good leakproof box because you’ll use it in college, on placement, everywhere. I sometimes carried my lunch in a separate bag just to keep it away from all my college gear.

Powerbank: this is my lifesaver. Trying to get a socket in college is near impossible. I’m constantly on my phone checking timetables, reading emails, messaging classmates if we’ve a group project on, chatting to my friends at home and abroad on their lunch breaks. It’s also very handy placement when you accidentally leave your phone on in your locker all day and the power is drained when it’s time for you to get home.

A backpack: not a shoulder bag. Not a handbag. Looking after your back health starts now. A backpack with proper straps and supports is the best choice you can make. Make it big enough to fit an A4 folder or laptop, whatever your essential bit of kit is.

Laptop case: I tend to not bring my laptop to college because it’s a bit chunky and heavy, and I prefer hand writing my notes. But if you’re bringing one, protect it! Put it in a case that seals all the way up and ideally is waterproof (be prepared for every disaster).

Water bottle: I use the bobble 1L bottle because we only have two water fountains in our building as well as the café which will refill bottles for free, but I hate queuing so I like being able to just use any tap. Staying hydrated will help to keep you alert in classes.

 

 

So those are the essentials as far as I can remember. If you think I’ve left anything out let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

My first Labour Ward placement

This was the placement I was most looking forward to and also probably the most panicked about. I got in my own head a fair bit in the few weeks beforehand, thinking about every possible thing that could go wrong. But it was amazing! Potentially my favourite placement. On labour ward no two days are the same. Sometimes the whole atmosphere can change at the turn of the hour! I found the variety of who came through the door and their individual situations amazing, even if sometimes the pace of it left me feeling like I’d never walk again.

 

 

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I saw two cesarean births. I witnessed three normal vaginal births. I am in equal awe and admiration of both ways of birthing. I am now even quicker to correct anyone who says one way is easier than another, because it’s not. It’s individual in terms of why someone goes one route, and the healing from both are very individual as well.

I witnessed lots of women in early labour in the admission room and in the ward, and it really hit home how individual pain management is. I also witnessed lots of birth partners having their hands squeezed and running to get ice, basically doing anything they could think of to be helpful. I did my best every day to remember that it wasn’t just intense and difficult and draining for the person in labour, it’s the same for their birth partners. I found it very difficult to not natter on when I was caring for someone, so I can only imagine how their loved ones felt!

 

I can’t describe what I felt during my first hands on birth. I still can’t describe how it felt to simply witness birth. It’s truly otherworldly. It’s miraculous (which isn’t a word I use often) and beautiful and powerful. Seeing my first instrumental delivery was a fair bit more of a shock reaction than any other time, as was seeing very premature babies. But taking part in that moment, with my hands on a perfectly new and unblemished human half into the world and still half inside its mother. There are no words for that. But it’s probably the closest that I’ve felt to complete peace in years.

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So that’s my first ever labour ward placement! It was the hardest unit I’ve ever worked on in my entire time working in healthcare. But by far the most exciting and rewarding.

First placement: Postnatal ward

 

It was a fair while ago at this stage but I’m finally writing about my first placement as a student midwife! It’s times like these that I’m grateful I scribbled everything down in my reflective journal at the end of (almost) every day.

 

For confidentiality reasons I obviously can’t and won’t go into detail about individual people or families.

 

I was incredibly nervous the first day, as anyone would be. But every person we met was so welcoming, especially our placement co-ordinators. We were orientated to the hospital for most of the morning. I had my first HSE scone and have been addicted ever since!

We started on the wards in the early afternoon. Having been out of healthcare for a while it was more of a shock to my system than I was expecting it to be but the staff on the ward were obviously well used to dazed and confused first year students and looked after me until I found my feet.

I didn’t keep count of how many women and babies I interacted with or looked after which I am now of course kicking myself for! I was mainly looking after families that had had cesarean sections from the first or second hour after the surgery to up to three days after. I was lucky to not run into any particularly difficult or painful situations and I find myself thinking about different people at different moments. It’s funny how once you’ve been a part of such a special intimate time in someone’s life the kind of things that remind you of them. There’s one family who comes to mind when I see lollipops! I guess that’s just midwife life. And I’m quite happy with it.

 

Some of the skills I got to observe and practice were baby bathing (terrifying but so manageable!), changing wound dressings, helping newborns to feed from the breast and the bottle, the process of checking and giving medications, and changing many many many many nappies. I’m overwhelmingly proud to say that not one wee baby managed to christen me in pee to date! The big important skills of course were the daily newborn and woman postnatal checks. I still rely on my checklist when I do them but the theory of it all made much more sense on the last day of placement than it did the first time.

 

One of the things I feel most privileged about is that I was able to follow a family through from her pre-op preparation to her postnatal care, which meant I got to watch the cesarean and see my first birth! I had already been blown away by the strength and power of the women who had had this major abdominal surgery but to see what was involved in the actual procedure gave me a whole new perception of the power that women possess.

 

Of course it wasn’t all perfect. I struggled with feeling like a spare part, especially in the first week when I couldn’t remember where anything was kept. I found it hard to match my expectations of myself with what I was actually supposed to be doing – I found myself falling back into the healthcare assistant role a few times and had to catch myself. We were very lucky to be given a session on infant death by the hospitals bereavement midwife. It’s invaluable and essential knowledge but it was very hard on my heart.

 

So that’s my first placement! Done and dusted and passed and forever in my memory. Keep an eye out for my postnatal placement essentials list.

I’m going on an adventure!

If you follow my facebook page or my instagram you’ll know that after years and years of dreaming, I have booked to go on an elective midwifery placement in Cambodia for six weeks in the summer of 2019.

 

I’ve been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been dreaming about midwifery. I’ve looked at multiple companies and locations. Ultimately I decided to go with Work the World. They have no age limits, a good ethical history, and were so helpful with all my questions (of which there were many) before I actually dived in and booked.

So in March, just before my second placement block, I went ahead and booked my dream. I don’t think the reality of booking it really hit me until a few days later, then I started crying and literally hopping around the place with excitement! I think my parents still don’t really believe that I’m going but there is absolutely no stopping me now! Especially as one of my loveliest classmates has booked to come along with me on this amazing journey.

 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position to start this adventure off. Booking alone cost €350 and with extra costs like vaccinations and flights I can easily see this tipping into €4000 by the time it’s all added up. So I’ll be doing a lot of fundraisers over the next year to earn as much as I can. I’ve already done the 2018 Women’s Mini Marathon, splitting what I raised between my fund for this trip and the Rape Crisis North East centre. I’ve set up a GoFundMe (link here) where anyone and everyone can vote on whether I should shave my flame hair or save it. And I’m hoping to make use of my self care hobby – cross stitch!

Cross stitch was something I detested in Junior Cert Home Ec, but I’ve learned to love it. It’s methodical, it’s routine, it’s hard to make a mistake. And it’s not an expensive or messy hobby, which is a bonus. A few girls in my class have asked me to make similar pieces for them so the little bit of extra money I make from them goes straight into my adventure savings!

 

I’ll keep updating as things develop but for the short and sweet versions make sure to follow our facebook page here