Embedding the arts and humanities in midwifery
The Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care has introduced a compulsory Arts and Humanities module to its BSc degree in Midwifery, giving students the opportunity to explore the subject from new perspectives and develop their emotional competencies and resilience in the workplace.
The Arts and Humanities module within the Midwifery Bsc supports students in building empathy, compassion, and resilience during their complex and demanding studies. The module has been developed to compliment and support students in their studies, which require essential scientific knowledge alongside hands-on skills in different maternity settings.A range of arts and humanities approaches are offered across the module, combining lectures and classroom discussions with practical creative workshops and visits to cultural venues.
Working with artistic depictions of motherhood and childhood, a workshop in the Courtauld Gallery invites students to explore their own Midwifery experiences in a cultural context. A lecture on pop music and partner-violence uses the lyrics from popular songs to address the difficult relationship between a woman’s self-esteem and her abusive relationship. A practical workshop prepares students to create an original artistic or literary piece for their final assessment, accompanied by a critical reflection on the social, cultural and political context of midwifery and its relation to their own practice. This gave all the students an opportunity to express and develop their personal responses to midwifery.
Taking the class into the gallery, and bringing creative activities into the classroom, allowed different kinds of discussions to take place. Students recalled clinical experiences that had been challenging and were able to share difficult emotions and memories in a safe and supported environment. These experiences provided a invaluable opportunity for students to reflect on, share and process these feelings and recollections.The module lead noted that the strongest art works did not necessarily come from the students who were academically the highest achievers, demonstrating that the module also provided valuable opportunities for students of all abilities to express themselves in new and different ways.
The primary outcome of the module was that students reported that they had developed their skill for reflection as well as strengthened their resilience, recognizing a strong link between the two. The module also helped students and tutors alike to reconnect with their original passion to become a midwife, and enabled stronger connections across the group.
As midwives, we can’t have a niche way of looking at the world because we have to connect with all sorts of people...it is important for us to also gain this broader cultural perspective.
Creating this piece [a soundscape using recordings made at a maternity centre] has changed my practice - I am more aware of the sounds I make in the labour room that can disturb the woman in labour as she tries to stay in tune with her body.
Led by Penny Charles, lecturer in midwifery. Sessions co-led with Ian Noonen, lecturer in mental health nursing, Alice Odin, gallery educator, and Eleonore Pironneau, artist.