From London to Bienne
As part of my midwifery studies, I was fortunate to be able to arrange an elective placement in Switzerland to address any aspects of midwifery that I have not yet encountered. My placement took place over one week in April 2016 on an observational basis. I visited the Spitalzentrum/Centre hospitalier in Biel-Bienne and spent some time at the Birthing house/Geburtshaus Luna and with the independent midwife Martina Burgler. I was hoping to see a different way of practicing midwifery without it costing the earth.
In the hospital, I was given the opportunity to observe different areas of midwifery practice including delivery suite, antenatal clinic and postnatal ward.
Considering the bilingualism of French and Swiss German, I found the midwives very experienced in discussing care with women alternating French, Swiss German or even English depending on client’s needs. Bilingual Leaflets were offered to women according to their needs. I discovered the practice of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and kinesiology taping. All midwives in the unit were acupuncture trained and many of them practiced kinesiology taping with confidence. What was amazing is that these practices are not only offered to all women but they are also embedded within hospital policies and guidelines. This reflects what I have always been taught in my midwifery training; that women should always be given choices in order for them to make autonomous informed decisions. I have learned how kinesiology taping helps pregnant women with different aches and pains and how this is applied adequately.
I have been informed that the hospital birth rate was around 200 births per year, which compared to the hospital in which I have been training (5000 births per year) is very small. However, the organisation within the hospital portrayed a very organised and team oriented approach to care. Midwives looked after each other and made sure that women received quality care in all situations.
I have discovered that the postnatal care in Switzerland is a very generous one. In fact, women were able to receive a postnatal care up to 2 months post birth. Within the hospital, there were also choices in terms of how many days women wished to stay allowing them to benefit from close mother and baby monitoring. The panoramic landscape view from the postnatal rooms, gave me the impression of how lucky these women were, especially that they did not have to worry about washing baby’s clothes as this was provided by the hospital.
The 60 0000 population of Biel-Bienne is greatly varied, with different ethnic and cultural background. During my time spent with Martina Burgler, the independent midwife, I have observed four different home visits in four different languages. This was though provoking, particularly due to the cultural diversity but also because I was able to observe postnatal care showing different wise and practical clinical techniques from what I have previously encountered.
In the Birthing house/Geburtshaus Luna, the midwifery team provided an amazing one-to-one individualised care to women and their families throughout the childbirth journey. Indeed, I was delighted to observe their nurturing and welcoming environment, in which women made lifelong memories. The midwives were extremely skilled and most importantly enthusiastic about providing woman centred care.
Finally, I feel that I have very much benefited from completing an elective placement in Biel- Bienne and think that every student midwife should have the opportunity to observe what others do in midwifery elsewhere. I believe that this short week has definitely given me an insight into new approaches of care as well as new ideas to apply into my future career as a midwife.