Leading with a SMiLE: exploring a student-led clinic practice education model for educational impact and service improvement

Authors: Way, S., Colbourne, D., Hutchings, M., Marsh, W. and Bick, D.

Start date: 3 April 2016

Aim: The Student Midwives integrated Learning Environment (SMiLE) offers an alternative, reliable and collaborative student-led clinic practice education model for equipping midwives of the future with the knowledge, skills and competencies they will need to provide safe and effective postnatal care, to mothers, babies and their families.

Background: Changes in health service provision within the UK have made it very difficult for universities to meet the practice requirements of undergraduate, pre-registration midwifery programmes (Andrews et al 2010). Some service improvements, particularly in the postnatal period, are having an impact on the quality and variety of clinical experience that student midwives are required to undertake in order to meet the standards set by the regulatory body for midwives, and receive a license to practice (NMC 2009).

This innovative collaboration between a university and NHS Trust could provide a valuable solution to these challenges, while at the same time improving the care for mothers and babies. Student-led clinics have been evaluated in the context of improved care outcomes for patients (Gu 2012) rather than focusing on the impact and effectiveness this educational approach has on the student learning experience.

Results: With the support of university ethics approval, early service evaluation of the clinic suggests that students found it benefitted their learning, built their confidence and gave them opportunities to develop their postnatal skills. Peer learning and teamworking relationships were also improved.

Discussion: The benefits and challenges of this practice education model are unknown and warrant further research to inform curriculum and policy development locally and nationally. An understanding of the impact of this student-led clinic approach may also be transferable to other professional groups and training situations. A research project is underway, studying in depth, the service development and educational impact that this innovative practice education model has on student midwives' learning.

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