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Midwives experience domestic abuse too…so how can they be supported in the workplace?

On Thursday October 4th 2018, The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) launched a report entitled ‘Safe Places? Workplace Support for those Experiencing Domestic Abuse’ at its Annual Conference in Manchester Central.

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I was privileged to be asked to perform and write up the analysis for this report. The findings truly moved me. If you know my work at all, you will know that it is heavily focused upon securing the psychological wellbeing of midwives. This is because I do not believe that excellence in maternity care can be delivered to mothers and babies without the provision of effective support for midwives.

Findings here revealed that some midwives trained to recognise domestic abuse and support women, were sometimes not recognising that they themselves are victims of domestic abuse.

“I was allowed to stay overnight on my delivery suite to avoid going home to my abusive partner”

“I was made to feel I was a nuisance, constantly asking me and contacting me, pressurizing me in to coming back to work. I gave in and did but I was soon off again as I still wasn’t well, and I then left midwifery because I didn’t want to be dismissed. I didn’t receive any support that was effective for me”

“I have and was been treated very badly by my place of work, absolutely no support or care and compassion”

“I was given a specific senior midwife who I could go to for support, to discuss things at times when home was particularly bad and to deal with any sickness absence – helpful as one person knew what was going on and I could be truthful, especially about the reasons for sickness absence sometimes”

“All staff should be asked about domestic abuse or violence on a regular basis”

“Police and social services were unhelpful, and no support provided. Neither I nor my children were offered counselling or directed to appropriate services despite asking several times for help. One police officer even commented that due to my ethnicity I could handle the situation myself.”

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Based on the findings the RCM has put forward the following evidence-based recommendations. These will enable maternity service managers and NHS Trusts/Boards to support staff experiencing domestic abuse more effectively.

  • All NHS Trusts/Health Boards should develop specific policies to support who are victims of domestic abuse, aligned to existing guidance from the NHS Staff Council developed in 2017.
  • NHS Trusts/Health Boards should provide and publicise confidential domestic abuse support services for affected staff, including access to IDVAs, external counselling and legal services as appropriate.
  • NHS Trusts/Health Boards should ensure that all managers and supervisors are trained on domestic abuse issues, so that they can recognise signs of domestic abuse in their staff and confidently undertake their safeguarding obligations.
  •  NHS Trusts/Health Boards should ensure that staff at all levels are trained on domestic abuse issues and made aware of relevant workplace policies as part of their induction programme and continuous updating and are made aware of support services.

It was a pleasure to work with esteemed colleagues at the RCM to put this report together. Midwives and maternity support workers are a highly valued workforce whom we rely on to provide optimal care for mothers and babies. It is our sincere hope that this report will enable maternity service managers and NHS Trusts/Boards to support staff experiencing domestic abuse more effectively.

“Thank you to all of the midwives and maternity support workers who took part in this survey. The wellbeing of maternity staff is intrinsically linked with the safety and quality of maternity services. Your thoughts, feelings and experiences have helped us to arrive at a deeper understanding of the resources required to support those experiencing domestic abuse.”

woman carrying newborn baby

If you would like to follow the progress of work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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How does patient and public involvement work in research? An example exploring midwives’ workplace wellbeing.

Patient and public involvement or #PPI is defined by INVOLVE (part of, and funded by, the National Institute for Health Research) as: 

“Research being carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them. This includes, for example, working with research funders to prioritise research, offering advice as members of a project steering group, commenting on and developing research materials and undertaking interviews with research participants.”

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In our latest publication, we explain how patient and public involvement works in maternity service research. Here, we asked childbearing women about their experiences in relation to the workplace wellbeing of midwives. We also asked them how they felt about new research looking to create and test an online intervention designed to support midwives. We did this via a discussion group, where participants were offered refreshments and remuneration for their time. Our aim was to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the perceptions of new mothers in relation to the barriers to receiving high quality maternity care?
  2. What are the perceptions of new mothers in relation to the psychological wellbeing of midwives working in maternity services?
  3. What are the perceptions of new mothers in relation to a research proposal outlining the development and evaluation of an online intervention designed to support midwives in work-related psychological distress?

These PPI activities helped us as researchers to do the following:

  • Better understand this research problem from the perspectives of new mothers
  • Validate the direction of future research plans
  • Explore new areas for data collection based on what really mattered to mothers and their babies
  • Improve upon the design of the proposed online intervention based on what really mattered to mothers and babies.

You can read our full methodology via the linked citation below:

Pezaro, Sally, Gemma Pearce, and Elizabeth Bailey. “Childbearing women’s experiences of midwives’ workplace distress: Patient and public involvement.” British Journal of Midwifery 26.10 (2018): 659-669.

This article was launched in the October edition of the British Journal of Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives annual conference in 2018 .

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Put simply, the findings in relation to what participants said were analysed thematically and turned into meaningful insights or ‘PPI coutcomes’. In this sense, we used a co-design approach to inform the direction of new research. How did this work exactly? See figure below.

Figure 1. Overall findings

Initially, we considered that it may have been useful to include midwives in PPI activities, as they were to be the intended recipients of the intervention proposed. However, INVOLVE briefing notes state that:

“When using the term ‘public’ we include patients, potential patients, carers and people who use health and social care services as well as people from organisations that represent people who use services. Whilst all of us are actual, former or indeed potential users of health and social care services, there is an important distinction to be made between the perspectives of the public and the perspectives of people who have a professional role in health and social care services.”

A such, we could not include midwives in these PPI activities due to them having a ‘professional role in health and social care services’. Nevertheless, as midwives were the intended end users and direct beneficiary of the intervention proposed, we argued that they should “not necessarily be excluded from PPI activities simply because they treat patients”. This debate lends itself to further academic discussion and we welcome ideas on this going forward.

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Both national and international strategies and frameworks relating to healthcare services tend to focus on putting the care and safety of patients first , yet these findings suggest that to deliver the best care to new mothers effectively, the care of the midwife must equally be prioritised. As such, we now intend to seek further funding to continue this work and secure excellence in maternity care.

If you would like to follow the progress of work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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19 Things That Show Workplace Compassion for Healthcare Staff

We are all well aware of how the wellbeing of healthcare staff can affect the quality and safety of care. I have also talked at length about the wellbeing of health care staff and the theories surrounding work-related psychological distress. But do we really have any concrete idea of what shows workplace compassion for healthcare staff?

My research published in collaboration with Dr. Wendy Clyne, Dr. Karen Deeny and Dr. Rosie Kneafsey asked Twitter users to contribute their views about what activities, actions, policies, philosophies or approaches demonstrate workplace compassion in healthcare using the hashtag #ShowsWorkplaceCompassion. It can be cited as follows:

Clyne W, Pezaro S, Deeny K, Kneafsey R. Using Social Media to Generate and Collect Primary Data: The #ShowsWorkplaceCompassion Twitter Research Campaign. JMIR Public Health Surveill 2018;4(2):e41. DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.7686. PMID: 29685866

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The results of this study outlined 19 things or ‘Themes’ in relation to what shows workplace compassion for healthcare staff as follows…

  Leadership and Management
1 Embedded organizational culture of caring for one another
2 Speaking openly to learn from mistakes
3 No blame/no bullying management
4 Inspiring leaders and collective leadership
5 Financial investment in staff
6 Recognize humanity and diversity
  Values and Culture
7 Common purpose in a team
8 Feeling valued
9 Being heard
10 Enjoying work
11 Being Engaged at work
12 Use of caring language
  Personalized Policies and Procedures
13 Recognition of the emotional and physical impact of healthcare work
14 Recognition of non-work personal context
15 Work/life balance is respected
16 Respecting the right to breaks
17 Being treated well when unwell
  Activities and Actions
18 Small gestures of kindness
19 Provision of emotional support

How will you implement these things within your healthcare workplace? I would love to hear your thoughts on this…

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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How to publish your PhD thesis in 6 easy steps

Whilst I am sure that there are many reputable companies who will publish your thesis out there, I wanted to share with you all how I published mine.

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First of all, I believe that if you have a PhD then your work must be adding some original knowledge to the world. That means that your work is of value, and should therefore be published and disseminated widely. This is also true for students, whose work is of great value to the academic community.

See my post here about ‘Why Midwifery and Nursing Students Should Publish their Work and How’

But here, I wanted to map out one way to publish your thesis. It is the way I published mine.

Step one…

Publish background literature reviews to outline how you arrived at your research questions. Much of this work will summarize the first chapters of your thesis. It will also help you refine your ideas if you publish as you write.

My initial chapters were published as follows:

Pezaro, S The midwifery workforce:  A global picture of psychological distress – Article inMidwives: Official journal of the Royal College of Midwives (2016): 19:33

Pezaro S Addressing psychological distress in midwives. Nursing Times (2016): 112: 8, 22-23.

Pezaro, S., Clyne, W., Turner, A., Fulton, E. A., & Gerada, C. (2015). ‘Midwives overboard! ‘Inside their hearts are breaking, their makeup may be flaking but their smile still stays on. Women and Birth 29.3 (2016): e59-e66.

Step two…

Publish your ideas around the theories used in your work.

I did this by publishing a blog on theories of work-related stress. I also published a paper exploring the ethical considerations of what I was trying to do entitled ‘Confidentiality, anonymity and amnesty for midwives in distress seeking online support – Ethical?’. Opening this up for discussion meant that my thesis was much stronger overall.

Step three…

Publish your methods via research protocols.

Not only does this mean that you have claimed the idea for yourself in the academic world, but you also then get the benefit of a wider peer review of your work. I published the protocol of my Delphi study as follows:

Pezaro, S, Clyne, W (2015) Achieving Consensus in the Development of an Online Intervention Designed to Effectively Support Midwives in Work-Related Psychological Distress: Protocol for a Delphi Study. JMIR Res Protoc 2015 (Sep 04); 4(3):e107

Step four…

Publish each chapter of your work as you go.

Again, this gives your work added peer review in the process of developing your thesis. I published the two largest pieces of research in my thesis as follows:

Pezaro, S, Clyne, W and Fulton, E.A  “A systematic mixed-methods review of interventions, outcomes and experiences for midwives and student midwives in work-related psychological distress.” Midwifery (2017). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2017.04.003

Pezaro, S and Clyne, W “Achieving Consensus for the Design and Delivery of an Online Intervention to Support Midwives in Work-Related Psychological Distress: Results From a Delphi Study.” JMIR Mental Health3.3 (2016).

Step five…

Publish summaries of your work for different audiences

Once you begin to pull together your entire thesis, you will begin to discuss the findings and arrive at certain conclusions. You can summarise these in a series of blogs and papers as you go. I published the following summary papers to reach both national and international audiences.

Pezaro, S (2018) Securing The Evidence And Theory-Based Design Of An Online Intervention Designed To Support Midwives In Work-Related Psychological Distress (Special Theme on Women in eHealth). Journal of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth. Vol 6, e8. 1-12.

Pezaro, S “The case for developing an online intervention to support midwives in work-related psychological distress.” British Journal of Midwifery 24.11 (2016): 799-805.

Step six…

Use info graphics to map out key points in your thesis

Once complete, your thesis will be published in full. Mine can be accessed here via the British Library and via Coventry University’s open collections. But it’s a mighty big document. Therefore, I produced the following infographic to map out my PhD journey for those looking for a shorter, yet engaging summary.

PhD infographic

…and there you have it. A fully published PhD thesis via a variety of avenues. I hope that you enjoy publishing your PhD thesis, and that publishing it helps you to defend it.

Also…If you need a co-author, let me know!🎓😉

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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10 Top tips for caring for women with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in pregnancy for International Day of the Midwife #IDM2018 & #EDS awareness month

 or ‘International Day of the Midwife’ falls on May the 5th of every year. The theme for 2018 in three languages is…

  • Midwives leading the way with quality care
  • Sages-femmes, ouvrons la voie avec la qualité des soins
  • Matronas liderando el camino con un cuidado de calidad 

Also… Every May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) awareness month around the world.

As such….for , and EDS awareness month… I shared 10 top tips for caring for women with hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) during pregnancy birth and beyond. These tips come from my latest paper, authored in partnership with Dr. Gemma Pearce (@GemmaSPearce) and Dr. Emma Reinhold (@DrEReinhold ), entitled …

Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome during pregnancy, birth and beyond

Here, we present care considerations for midwives and the multidisciplinary team caring for this unique subgroup of childbearing women. However, we hope that women with hEDS will also benefit from this paper, as they make decisions in partnership with their professional health care teams. You can read the press release from this paper here.

I would personally like to thank the board members of the British Journal of Midwifery for making this article FREE for all to read. I would also like to thank the Royal college of Midwives for sharing news of the article here…and the Nursing Times for sharing further news here.

So what can midwives do to maximize the quality of care given to women with hEDS throughout pregnancy birth and beyond?…First of all….Know the facts…

  • There have been no prevalence studies since EDS received a major reclassification in 2017
  • Earlier estimates from 2006 suggest a prevalence rate of 0.75-2% for hyper mobile EDS
  • hEDS is the most common form of EDS
  • Up to 78% of women with hEDS could also have a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • POTS predominantly occurs in women of childbearing age
  • EDS is considered to remain largely under diagnosed.

Tips for midwives

  1. Discuss individual needs with women, as no two cases will be the same. Do this early, and always in partnership with the woman and the wider multidisciplinary healthcare team.
  2. Consider early referral to obstetric, physiotherapy and anaesthetic teams in partnership with the woman.
  3. Consider the need for alternate maternal positioning during pregnancy, birth and beyond. To minimise the risk of injury, positioning should be led by the mother.
  4. As wound healing can be problematic, the use of non-tension, non-dissolvable, deep double sutures, left in for at least 14 days is advisable.
  5. Wait longer for local anaesthetics to take effect and consider giving maximum dosage. Always be led by the mother on whether pain relief is sufficient
  6. Always consider the significance of a routine observation in light of existing POTS and/or EDS symptoms
  7. Promote spontaneous pushing rather than directed pushing during birth
  8. Promote effective pain management and the use of therapeutic birthing environments to promote reductions in stress
  9. Consider additional joint support for newborns suspected of having hEDS
  10. Document all joint dislocations and bruising marks on the newborn from birth to avoid misdiagnosis and/or wrongful accusations of mistreatment.

Research into EDS and childbearing is in it’s very early stages. We hope to build on this work to make a difference for all women with hEDS during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

pregnant belly

If you would like to follow the progress of this work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

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Being Examined: Tips for your viva

This wisdom comes from the 10th annual ‘Life beyond the PhD’ conference () hosted at Cumberland Lodge. I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend and gather a multitude of hints and tips for my academic career…Now I plan to share them here for those who wish to read them…I have also experienced a viva voce examination…so these viva tips also come from me too.

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What is a viva voce?

In a nutshell it is the oral assessment of your PhD Thesis.

So your first viva tip would be….know how a PhD/doctorate/thesis is defined!…Here is a sample of some of the key phrases and expressions relating to ‘doctorateness’:

  • worthy of publication either in full or abridged form;

  • presents a thesis embodying the results of the research;

  • original work which forms an addition to knowledge;

  • makes a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and offers evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or the exercise of independent critical power;

  • shows evidence of systematic study and the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject;

  • the thesis should be a demonstrably coherent body of work;

  • shows evidence of adequate industry and application;

  • understands the relationship of the special theme of the thesis to a wider field of knowledge;

  • represents a significant contribution to learning, for example, through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory or the revision of older views;

  • provides originality and independent critical ability and must contain matter suitable for publication;

  • adequate knowledge of the field of study;

  • competence in appropriate methods of performance and recording of research;

  • ability in style and presentation;

  • the dissertation is clearly written;

  • takes account of previously published work on the subject.

Source: Searching for ‘Doctorateness’.

The problem is…..that a range of literature has pointed out the variability in examination processes across universities, individual examiners, disciplines. Yup, this can be a fairly subjective process. So it is your job within your thesis and within your viva to make your case and convince your examiners that your work is indeed doctoral work.

Within Wellington’s (2013) framework for assessing ‘Doctorateness’, there are seven categories listed for which doctorates may contribute original knowledge. Therefore, in order for ‘Doctorateness’ to be unequivocally established for your thesis, it is important to apply the categories of this framework to each component of your research. The table below was added to my own thesis in order to prove how and why my work was indeed doctoral work.

Category number Category description Evidence
1 Building new knowledge, e.g. by extending previous work or ‘putting a new brick in the wall’. The Delphi method has been used previously to assess the workplace needs of midwifery populations (Hauck, Bayes and Robertson 2012). Yet the views and opinions of an expert panel about the design and development of an online intervention designed to support midwives in work-related psychological distress have been gathered and presented for the first time within this thesis.
2 Using original processes or approaches, e.g. applying new methods or techniques to an existing area of study. As the Delphi study presented within this thesis was a modified one, where the identity of experts remained unknown to the researcher, and free text response options accompanied each statement, it has also applied somewhat original processes and approaches to an existing area of study.

 

3 Creating new syntheses, e.g. connecting previous studies or linking existing theories or previous thinkers. Chapter one presents the first narrative review to integrate studies of midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro et al. 2015). This original knowledge demonstrates how midwives working in rural, poorly resourced areas who experience neonatal and maternal death more frequently can experience death anxieties, where midwives working in urban and well-resourced areas do not. This creation of new syntheses connects previous studies and existing theories together to form new knowledge.

 

The mixed-methods systematic review presented within chapter three is the first of its kind to collate and present the current and available evidence in relation to existing interventions targeted to support midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro, Clyne and Fulton 2017).

 

4 Exploring new implications, for either practitioners, policy makers, or theory and theorists. Chapter two makes an original contribution to ethical decision making, and may be extrapolated and applied to other healthcare professions who may also now consider the provision of confidential support online.
5 Revisiting a recurrent issue or debate, e.g. by offering new evidence, new thinking, or new theory. The original research presented in chapter two contributes to an ongoing academic dialogue in relation to ethical decision making.
6 Replicating or reproducing earlier work, e.g. from a different place or time, or with a different sample. The mixed-methods systematic review, presented in chapter three somewhat replicates earlier work from a different place, time, and with a different inclusion sample (Shaw, Downe and Kingdon 2015).

 

7 Presenting research in a novel way, e.g. new ways of writing, presenting, disseminating. The results of this research have been disseminated via popular media publications throughout. A further summary of this research is planned for publication. Furthermore, this research has also informed new guidance, published by the Royal College of Midwives, who also present the findings of this research in a new way. This new guidance is intended to guide heads of midwifery to support midwives experiencing work-related stress. Evidence of this can be found in Appendix 15.

 

Adapting this table to fit your own work should assist you in realizing how your own research can be argued to be doctoral work, both in your thesis and in your viva. Once this argument is clear in your own mind, your confidence should rise and enable you to direct your thoughts towards a really positive goal. Getting your PhD!…and not just because you want it, but because you are worthy of it! You have worked really hard for this opportunity, and seeing your work match up to this framework can really help you to visualize your successes. But now there are other things you can do to help you prepare…

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Viva tips

Just because you have submitted your thesis, this does not mean you can sit back a relax until your viva day. Following a short break, and with fresh eyes, you should be revisiting your thesis and getting to know it really well. Also, be sure to keep up to date with any new research arising in your field, it may well be discussed in your viva!

Get to know your university’s policies and procedures. This will help you to prepare for how the viva voce may play out on the day. As your examiners will be drawing upon their own expertise, make sure that you also have a broad knowledge of their work!

Pick your battles. Fighting every point can be really jarring for everyone in the room, and your examiners need to see that you can accept constructive criticism and reflect. Decide what you will really defend, and what you are willing to let go of. This means that you will need to anticipate what your examiners may ask you. Here, it is a good idea to mock up some practice questions. Try defending the questions you fear most. This will help you to face your demons and formulate your arguments….constructively. An extra tip here would be to record yourself arguing your points. How do you sound? are you believable? How do you come across?

Having your supervisor with you can be very reassuring and comforting, although they may well not be allowed to speak during your viva voce. However, try to have them sit next to you or behind you, as eye contact or some other gestures, however well meaning may put you off your game.

Once you get to the viva, be prepared to break the ice. Your examiners are not ogres. They want you to pass! Starting your viva with a warm greeting can set the tone for the session, so don’t start with your defensive wall up too high! You can also set the scene with a short presentation to cover some broad points you anticipate coming up. Use this time to also show your knowledge and demonstrate your own unique way of thinking and working.

If there has been a long gap between your thesis submission and your viva, you may now have moved on to new ways of thinking or changed your original work to move on to a new project. Remember that this new work does not count in your viva. You must remain focused on what you submitted.

If the discussion moves to really complex debates, it is important to keep your cool, remain professional and don’t turn into a robot who has learnt their responses off by heart. Also, don’t be overly humble or point out your own weaknesses directly…if they are raised by the examiners, then you can show respectful considerations to other methods, but it is still important not to shoot yourself in the foot.

Your viva can last a good few hours…it is basically a brain marathon! So you will need to prepare both mentally and physically. This means de-stressing, eating and sleeping well…and generally giving time to your own self care regime. If you need a break during the session, don’t be afraid to ask for one. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, take a constructive pause to write or read and deliberate. It can’t be an extremely emotional and draining experience.

However, some people can enjoy their viva. After all, you will be speaking about your own work with experts in the field for some time. This is a chance to show off, be proud of what you have achieved and even learn more! Thinking in this positive way may make the viva experience not seem so daunting.

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I personally found my own viva experience very daunting, emotional and stressful. However, my examiners were not ogres…they too wanted me to pass and to help me make the best of my work… Following the submission of my revised thesis, I realized how much better my thesis now is because of this viva process and the input of my examiners. Having now gone beyond the viva process, I believe that I have truly earned my PhD. I worked hard for it. It didn’t come easy. It was a brain marathon. But would a PhD really be worth having if it was easy to achieve?

I can also now reflect on this process and learn from it. It is an experience that will certainly stay with me and enrich my future work. I hope it will also enable me to improve my own examination and supervisory skills in future.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤