Q&A: the benefits of preceptorship for midwives and the women in their care

Published on 05 May 2023

For International Day of the Midwife, we spoke to midwife Olivia Blankley about the preceptorship programme she helps deliver at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Preceptorship programmes aim to welcome and integrate newly registered professionals into work. Olivia told us about the positive impact this can have on newly qualified midwives and the care they deliver to women, babies and families.

How does preceptorship for midwives benefit women, babies and families receiving care?

Preceptorship provides midwives with psychological safety. It gives them a period of transitioning into the workforce where the team is aware they are developing and enables them to be curious, ask questions and take responsibility for their own learning. In turn, this leads to well-rounded practitioners who can provide excellent safe care to women and their families.

It was wonderful to see that 100% of the midwives on Mid Yorkshire NHS trust’s preceptorship programme would recommend it – what does it involve?

A key part of the Mid Yorkshire preceptorship programme is that it is individualised to each person’s needs.

It starts with a four-week orientation with a big focus on wellbeing and teamwork. All midwives undertake three rotations. Everyone does six months on labour ward and our joint antenatal/postnatal ward. The final rotation is in either community or outpatients.

We offer every midwife the same number of supernumerary shifts so whether they choose to work full time or part time they have the same opportunities to learn. We offer a month supernumerary in community. This is our standard offer but we flex to meet midwives’ individual preferences.

How do you ensure staff wellbeing is incorporated into your preceptorship package?

Improving culture and staff wellbeing is a huge part of our preceptorship package. During the induction process, we host a wellbeing day where we spend the morning focusing on getting to know our teams and learning about different roles.

We know that effective team working positively contributes to staff experience, and ultimately the experience of those who access our services. In the afternoon we focus on introducing members of staff to different techniques they could try to aid their mental health such as journaling, mindfulness and yoga. We recently rolled this out for all new starters as well as those returning from maternity leave or long-term sick leave. Additionally, we offer action-learning sets in small groups once per quarter, which are facilitated by our organisational development team and Professional Midwifery Advocates. I meet with all midwives on a 1:1 basis three times per rotation to ensure their support needs are being met. I also help them to make personal development plans focused on building confidence and happiness at work, as well as knowledge and skills acquisition.

What role can preceptorship play in helping improve safety in maternity services?

Preceptorship supports newly qualified midwives in becoming confident, curious practitioners. Creating a culture of compassion and authenticity enables midwives to raise concerns confidently without fear of blame and with a focus on learning, which creates a safer environment for women and birthing people.

What tips do you have for final year students who are looking for their first role as a registered midwife?

Research the trust values and ensure they align with your own personal ones. Engage in open days and take opportunities to speak to current newly qualified midwives who work at the trust to ensure that the support they describe on paper is the same as the support they have felt they have received. If they offer a preceptorship programme, ask the preceptorship midwife for a tour of the unit – you can get a feel for the culture of an organisation by meeting members of staff on shift.

One comment we always get from students who come for a tour is that everyone stops and says hello, asks who they are and why they are here which makes them feel welcomed and valued.

What has delivering the preceptorship programme taught you?

Working with new graduates has taught me the importance of compassionate and authentic leadership. Often, individuals can have complex home lives, which can have a negative impact on work. By creating a culture where staff feel able to ask for flexible working arrangements or adjustments, it enables them to come to work more engaged and focus, ultimately resulting in higher standards of care for women and families.

Each graduate is unique; they all have their own learning needs and often have fantastic ideas on how we can support them to achieve these. As a team, we try to be as adaptable to new ideas as possible. We recognise the value of the input of current preceptees and students to continually improve our current programme.

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