National recognition for trailblazer and midwife Lisa

A student midwife from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has received a national award in recognition for her work towards decolonising midwifery education and advocating for student midwives at a local and national level.

Final-year Midwifery student Lisa Rollinson was one of three winners of the Trailblazer Award at the annual Student Midwife Experience Festival, which has taken place virtually since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lisa Rollinson Photo

“I didn’t realise I was even nominated until two days before the event”, Lisa said. “Luckily, I wasn’t on placement on the day so I could log in and virtually attend, but to win was a complete shock as there are so many student midwives all over the UK striving to make positive change. I didn’t feel I had done anything too out of the ordinary.”

Lisa – who, amongst other accolades, chairs the DMU Midwifery society, and represents student midwives from the Midlands and East of England on the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Student Midwifery Forum (SMF) – is keen to implement the findings of a DMU report into decolonising midwifery teaching across UK universities.

In 2021, midwifery lecturers from DMU decided to assess their teaching materials, reviewing everything from illustrations and diagrams in textbooks to models of babies, women and birthing people to ensure a diverse range of ethnicities were represented.

Related story – Midwives from DMU decolonise their curriculum to ensure care is equal for all

Lisa said: “One of the main comments that student midwives have said is that they want to see more diversity and representation in midwifery educational materials, and together with the RCM I’m now part of a national steering group helping to decolonise midwifery education.

“The stark disparity in maternal mortality rates between women from Black and Asian aggregated ethnic groups and White women and birthing people are well known, yet they have not changed in over a decade.

“Having had constructive feedback from a webinar on decolonising midwifery education hosted by the RCM SMF, the steering group is currently developing a toolkit to support the decolonisation of midwifery education. The toolkit will include information for the education board on how changes can be made to teaching materials and how we can recruit and retain more student midwives from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

“For example, when a baby is born the midwife examines the baby using the APGAR score (named after Virginia Apgar), of which one of the criteria is skin colour. However, when learning about the APGAR score, a lot of the resources that student midwives are taught with only address Caucasian skin, so it’s about making sure students learning is more inclusive and safer.”

A 2022 report published in the British Journal of Midwifery found that students experienced a “monocultural” focus in the curriculum and some were exposed to “racist behaviours”, which caused them to modify their behaviours.

Lisa said: “Decolonising midwifery education is an ongoing project, and we are currently looking into various ways to make students feel supported, valued and safe, both in placement and in the classroom. This includes making sure that the student population, the NHS workforce and our academic lecturers are diverse and representative of the local population, and at present, this isn’t the case. Representation matters as it dismantles stereotypes, improves safety and enables people to see themselves in roles that they potentially thought weren’t achievable and can be aspirational.”

The Student Midwife Experience Festival is an online event that enables student midwives across the UK to listen to new research, engage with talks and share their own stories as well as network with industry professionals.

Judges picked the three winners of the Student Midwife Trailblazer Award from a national list of nominated students.

For Lisa, who admits she “fell into midwifery” having previously followed her first passion for design, the award is a culmination of three years of hard work across her studies and placements.

She said: “I spent seven years in online design but as my career developed, priorities changed, and I started to look into jobs where I felt I could make more of a difference to the individual.

“Childbearing is such a life-changing period of time for women, birthing people and their families and being able to advocate and support them during this time really appealed to me.

“I’ve been really fortunate with all the opportunities that have come my way whist studying at DMU. Representing student midwives from the Midlands and the East of England at the RCM’s SMF has been really influential for me, as well as being a student ambassador for the local Maternity Voices Partnership, where we work together to make positive changes in local trust.

“I’m also part of the Chief Midwifery Officer of England’s Student Advisory Group, where we talk about the challenges and areas for improvement in midwifery education and look to create actionable and achievable solutions.”

Moira McLean, a senior midwifery lecturer at DMU and Lisa’s personal tutor, nominated her student for the award.

She said: “I am extremely proud of all Lisa is doing, as are the whole midwifery team at DMU. It’s extremely encouraging knowing that the future of the midwifery profession is being influenced so positively by our students.

“Lisa is modest about her achievements and quietly goes about making ideas a reality. For example, she invited University of Leicester students to the DMU Midwifery society’s film screening, which led to both universities co-producing the International Day of the Midwife celebrations after a comment in a conversation.

“It’s lovely to see her get the recognition she deserves.”

Posted on Monday 1 August 2022

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