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Recruiting student midwives in the United Arab Emirates for a New Midwifery Programme

By Georgina Sosa PhD, Midwife, Assistant Professor of Midwifery

In this fourth article, Gina (Georgina Sosa) PhD, Midwife, Assistant Professor of midwifery reflects on the progression of the #MidwiferyinAbuDhabi journey (previous articles are available on the Midwifery Forum website 1, 2, 3 )

 

Recruiting student midwives in the United Arab Emirates for a New Midwifery Programme

 

As we approached the end of our first academic year at Fatima College of Health Sciences (FCHS) in Abu Dhabi, our attentions started to focus on recruitment. At this stage of our journey, we were hoping to announce that our Midwifery programme at FCHS is accredited, but we are still waiting for news. However, we feel a sense of achievement as we have been working on the following in the last year while teaching full time:

  1. Scoping exercise to find out what midwifery looks like in Abu Dhabi (this is ongoing)
  2. Submit evidence to the 61 requirements stipulated by the accreditation team.
  3. Design a Midwifery BSc programme

We now have a midwifery programme waiting for accreditation, but nothing can happen if we do not have students to register for August 2022. This has been an exciting time, but also a very tricky time in our journey to balance. We need to spread the word about the new midwifery programme while not knowing 100% if the programme will be accredited. The student midwives will not only need the passion, motivation, and high energy to progress in midwifery education, but also, they will need courage due to the uncertainty. Dr Maeve Anne O’Connell and me, with the support of our colleagues believe the midwifery programme will be accredited.  Whenever we read through the syllabus, we get excited that students will be learning the content from August 2022.

The recruitment strategy included targeting as many first-year students as possible at FCHS to give them the opportunity to change their major to midwifery. Part of the inclusion criteria to join midwifery is that students need to pass the anatomy and physiology and academic writing courses in their first year. At FCHS, all students complete a foundation year before starting their major subject from year 2 and finishing at the end of year 4. We later discovered that we should also target the second-year students as some were repeating courses and exams. From this year we will also present at high schools.

Dr Maeve and I introduced the midwifery programme by presenting to the students at the Abu Dhabi FCHS campus, followed by Al Ain and Ajman. The presentation included roleplay, acting out a narrative that I was a para 2 pregnant woman and unexpectedly went into labour while presenting!! We used this method as we have learned that storytelling plays an important role in Emirati culture, rich in intangible heritage. Using all our clinical experiences supporting labouring women, I progressed in labour while Dr Maeve supported the birth as my midwife.  Yes, we got the students attention!! Some students thought I really was in labour as we are very good at acting.

We shared our presentations on the social media and Instagram showed to be the most popular with the students. We also shared an information leaflet and the student study plan to help students to consider midwifery as a career option. Dr Maeve created a QR code for a survey via Google Forms to gather feedback following the presentations and gauge the interest in midwifery and potential challenges. Most students who replied to the feedback were interested to complete the midwifery programme. The reasons for choosing to study midwifery were mainly because of the opportunity to make a difference for women and working with newborns.  Students were also very positive about the prospect of experiencing blocks of theory followed by blocks of clinical placements so that student can immerse themselves. This is an alternative to the present nursing system which includes studying theory for 3 days and clinical for 2 days. The block system was a request from the clinical staff.

In relation to challenges, some students were disappointed when they learned that the midwifery programme would only happen in Abu Dhabi. It means students will need to transfer and travel to Abu Dhabi campus to complete the midwifery programme. The long-term plan is to expand the midwifery programme to the other campuses. We have 30 places for the first midwifery intake and 21 students have expressed interest to start. Not all the students meet the admission criteria yet, but they are all passionate to start the midwifery courses.

We also received positive feedback from faculty staff, who attended the presentations to learn more about midwifery. The staff have expressed their support to discuss midwifery as an option with students. Such support is vital.

To further accelerate the publicity, FCHS launched the midwifery programme with a Simulation Day 20th May 2022 collaborating with the FCHS paramedic team and the Leader Healthcare group. The latter group supplied mannequins and simulation equipment and were led by Ms Caroline Kahlil. Ms Saloua El Azzabi, a clinical midwife manager at Burjeel Medical City also joined us. This time we not only had a narrative of a woman labouring at home and being transferred to hospital with the support of the paramedic team, we also had Lucina, a simulation model that gave birth. We were able to inform the audience that home births are not permitted in the UAE so the woman in the scenario needed to be transferred although there were no complexities present. We also illustrated midwifery one-to-one support in action when the woman attended the hospital. My character of the labouring woman morphed into the simulation model. An exciting addition was that students could experience an augmented reality (AR) (CAE Lucina Leader Healthcare group 2021) by placing goggles on; students were able to also see inside the uterus of Lucina where the fetus was descending and rotating. Such a great combination to learn the actions inside and outside the woman’s labouring body.

Dr Maeve and I were concentrating so much on interacting with one another, the paramedic team and the audience that we were not aware our audiences were mesmerised; words our colleagues later used to describe the students’ reactions to the role play and simulation models. One mother accompanied her daughter who is a student at FCHS and volunteered her daughter to assist supporting one of the births. Some of those who had experienced labour and birth, expressed that they had flash backs to the labour emotions and sensations, their wombs feeling like they were contracting.

Another crucial aspect when thinking about recruitment is that most of the students at FCHS are Emirati. It is important to have role models whom students can identify with. As part of the scoping exercise, we have worked with two Emirati midwives, Ms Seta A Saifi a Midwifery Manager and Ms Sawsan Dahira a midwife. Both midwives are working at Danat Al Emarat hospital for women and children in Abu Dhabi. These midwives have encouraged students to reach out to them to discuss how it feels to work as a midwife in Abu Dhabi and share their future aspirations. Such collaborations with clinical staff have been essential.

I have had a wonderful first year at FCHS. Not only learning about how the education and health systems work in the UAE, but working jointly with Dr Maeve has created a strong partnership along with our FCHS colleagues, students and the local health professionals as we prepare the start of our midwifery programme,  the only one in the UAE.

We are very much looking forward to starting the midwifery programme in August 2022 and where the journey will take us …

 

Dr Georgina Sosa,

Assistant Professor of Midwifery,

Fatima College of Health Sciences, Abu Dhabi

July 2022

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