For the last three months the Midwifery Team has hosted two midwifery students, Roanne Camilleri and Vanesa Micallef, from the University of Malta on an Erasmus Exchange Placement. The students have had experience in maternity care on the antenatal, postnatal, labour Wards at Hull Royal Infirmary together with community experience.
Roanne and Vanesa gave a presentation to the University of Hull student midwives comparing and contrasting differences between maternity care and midwifery education in the UK and Malta. Student midwives in Malta study for a period of four years and do not commence ‘hands on’ births until their third year, unlike our students who can have supervised hands on birth experience from the first year of study. In Malta, they do not have the equivalent of the short programme in midwifery, for nurses. Maternity care is mainly obstetric led with midwives having less autonomy. Cultural differences prevail too, notable was the impact of religious belief on maternity care. Malta, being a predominantly Roman Catholic country, prohibits termination of pregnancy, even where a fetus has a condition which is incompatible with life. It was interesting to observe their gasps of surprise from the University of Hull students, when they realised how living in a non-secularised society can still have such an impact on medical ethics and law, within maternity care.
Roanne and Vanessa, explained that, in Malta, opiate analgesia is not given, in labour, after the woman’s cervical dilatation reaches 6-7 centimetres to ensure that the neonate is not compromised via transplacental opiate transmission. They also described a breastfeeding clinic, which is run by midwives at the main maternity unit, where women drop in for support and help with infant feeding in the weeks following birth. They noted that community midwifery is not practised in Malta, although a pilot scheme is beginning, offering a schedule of home visits in the first few months postnatallly. Consequently, homebirth is not a feature of midwifery in Malta. However, both of the students were able to experience a less medicalised setting for birth including a waterbirth in the maternity unit and a homebirth, whilst here. The Maltese students also highlighted, the much more concise form of record keeping, used at home. No doubt many of the Hull University students, would relish the prospect of less paperwork! The Hull midwifery students found the presentation fascinating and it stimulated interesting discussion.
Both Maltese students had enjoyed their visit to Hull - Roanne said “It was a great learning experience working on the wards. The midwives were very welcoming and friendly. They gave us constant support and encouragement. I had the opportunity to witness a lovely waterbirth and conduct a homebirth. Thanks to the experience I have made new friends and have more confidence in midwifery skills. University lectures and academic staff have done their utmost to make us feel welcome and ensure that we were having an overall good experience”.
Vanessa commented “I can’t believe it’s the end now, it was an amazing experience working on all the wards. All the midwives and lecturers were all lovely and welcoming. Everyone made sure that we had a bit of everything, to ensure that we learnt new things. I had the opportunity to conduct a lovely water birth which I’m sure I will never forget. That you all who made this dream come true”.
It was a pleasure having the students with us and we look forward to a continued relationship between the University of Malta and the University of Hull, sharing and learning about European midwifery.