Meet the RCM's Digital Midwifery Advisor - Hermione Jackson
My name is Hermione and I just started working at the RCM as Digital Midwife Advisor.
Prior to this, I was a Digital Midwife working in a large NHS Trust in London. A 'digital midwife' wasn't a role I had ever heard of when I trained to be a midwife. It didn't fit with the image I had of delivering babies and being 'with woman'. However, as I progressed through my midwifery career, I learned about all the specialist and senior roles that midwives could move into. Like many other midwives, I became increasingly frustrated with the antiquated and outdated technology we were using and could see other sectors advancing quickly.
I had multiple email accounts, social media accounts and used digital technology daily to do everything from buying holidays to banking. Most maternity services were still built around manual processes involving lots of paper, fax machines and 'snail mail' to communicate both internally, with other professional and the women who used the service. The contrast between how other industries used technology and how maternity services used technology was stark.
When the unit I worked at decided to convert from paper records to electronic notes, I jumped at the chance to be involved – this was the digital revolution I had been waiting for! Like any big change in practice, the introduction of electronic maternity notes didn't differ, and this change affected every aspect of the maternity pathway and our practice.
I learnt more about midwifery practice in that process than I'd ever known before. Every aspect of practice had to be mapped and tested on the digital system. I felt more like a midwife than ever as my knowledge of every possible maternity scenario had been tested. I had found when I specialised in working in one area of midwifery prior to becoming a digital midwife I became an expert in that aspect of practice. As a digital midwife I had to be an expert in every area of midwifery practice as well as aspects of obstetrics, anaesthetics, physio, dietetics and endocrinology to name a few.
I am often asked if I miss clinical practice, and in many ways I do. Especially the relationship I built up with women in my community clinic as I guided them through their pregnancy. But my relationship with everyone's clinical practice now made me feel incredibly involved in every woman's experience of our service and I was invested in all their journeys. The digital change was as much around changing the midwives' practice, as it was changing the women's experience. Ensuring that women moved successfully from carrying large paper folders around to accessing their notes via an app where they could also view leaflets and write a birth plan helped keep me grounded in the benefits of the digital.
The role of the digital midwife is so much more than just supporting the use of the electronic record, although that is a large part of the role. I found myself involved in many other projects and aspects of maternity care, as every change in practice led to a change in the electronic system. When continuity teams were introduced it was important that we were able to record this and collect data to demonstrate how many women were receiving continuity, as well as whether the intention to provide continuity was actually realised in the number of midwives that women received care from in pregnancy, at birth and postnatally. From examples like this I also developed a love of data and spreadsheets that I never expected. I was suddenly able to access so much information about our unit, I was able to really appreciate how hard everyone was working every day.
The easy access to data, allowed all the staff to get more involved in changes. We could track each month how many women had been booked onto a continuity pathway, or how many women had registered to view their maternity record electronically to monitor these new changes. This allowed everyone to be more responsive to whether small changes in practice were effective in achieving the planned outcomes.
Being a digital midwife has also allowed me to create excellent working relationships with those outside my local maternity service. I regularly met with health visitors, ICT, SCBU, Apple, and digital midwives from around the country. Maternity was far more reaching than I had previously appreciated. Breaking down that perception about the maternity services 'bubble', supported our integration with these external services, and we were able to share knowledge of both digital transformation and a woman's journey to change practice both internal and external to our organisation.
This new role at the RCM is recognition of how working digitally has become an essential aspect of providing maternity care and the importance of digital midwives to support that. During my secondment here I hope to develop the role of digital midwives across the UK through a new career framework as well as reviewing how the RCM is supporting digital midwifery practice for all its members. I will also sit on the Maternity Transformation Boards for workstream six, sharing data and information; and workstream seven harnessing digital technology representing the interests of the midwifery profession. I will also be representing the views of midwives at consultations and engagements with other key stakeholders in maternity such as the PRSB, NHS digital, NMC, and Health Education England.
If you have any issues or ideas you would like to share with the RCM about Digital Maternity please get in touch via email: [email protected].