By Misbah Mahmood, digital midwife, Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, who will be speaking at Digital Health Rewired in March.
The role of a digital midwife has traditionally been under-recognised, but that is now thankfully changing.
In March 2021, the Royal College of Midwives launched a position statement calling for every trust in the country to recruit, or train, digital midwives. And, in the same month, NHSX launched a new national digital midwife role.
I was among the first generation of digital midwives and was recruited into my role five years ago, initially as a six-month secondment. Since then, I’ve joined a huge online community of digital midwives and today I’m part of a team of seven.
My role has evolved hugely over the years and I’m keen to highlight not only its unique importance, but – also – how much it resembles the work of digital nurses and chief clinical information officers (CCIO).
So, we need to all work together to deliver digital transformation.
A unique role
Digital Midwives are specialists in delivering digital transformation in maternity services. Whereas a digital nurse will understand bed care plans and the use of digital in nursing wards, the digital midwife focuses specifically on maternity.
There are some differences between digital midwives and other specialities. We have the baby to think about and safeguarding is an issue, especially if the child is fostered or adopted.
Also, one patient enters the maternity episode of care, but (hopefully) two patients leave.
What’s in a title?
But we shouldn’t get bogged down with titles. Most of the work of digital midwives resembles the digital nurse and CCIO roles closely and is equally important. On a day-to-day basis, I spend my time on similar tasks, but in a maternity context.
For example, I engage with suppliers and stakeholders about the scope of digital transformation projects. We work towards national initiatives, maintain computer systems, elicit feedback from service users, and help teach and train clinicians.
Most of my skills are transferrable to other digital roles. For example, data analysis and considering how systems will affect patients. I have project thinking and management skills and have carried out large-scale digital implementations.
I also try to understand how digital change can work in practice. For example, logging in and out of five different systems where half the data is missing is never going to be fit for purpose.
Many of the challenges I face are also common to digital roles in other parts of the hospital. Interoperability is something CCIOs, digital nurses and midwives all think about in our job.
Working in collaboration
As such, it’s essential for digital midwives to avoid working in a silo. We need to work together with CCIOs and digital nurses to ensure seamless data sharing and delivery of digital care.
It’s important to realise that, when a woman or birthing parent’s data is managed through a Maternity Information System (MIS), this is only a single episode in that patient’s journey.
Once the patient (and baby) leaves the maternity services for postnatal care, they are no longer a maternity-specific patient. They move from the maternity ward, and their data also transfers to more general nursing and clinical information systems.
A growing role
Working together has grown more important with the growth of the digital agenda in the last five years. Increasingly NHS trusts are dealing with the introduction of artificial intelligence, for example, and patient expectations are also growing.
Patients today can unlock their car with their mobile phone and even access their bank account, so why do they still have to bring paper notes to their antenatal appointment?
No one wants to travel across Leeds with a paper folder when they could access it, from their phone, at the touch of a button. It’s much easier to transfer a woman or birthing parent to another trust if the clinical record is stored digitally.
IT teams alone are often unable to keep up with demand. Midwives today, for example, are heavily dependent on laptops to do their job. Part of my team’s role is helping ensure midwives have the right hardware whenever they need it.
Pioneering the Future
I’ve been incredibly lucky that my trust pioneered the digital midwife role at a time when it had less recognition. Today I’m one of two digital midwives at the trust, aided by two band 6 support midwives and three band 3s.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to complete a one-year Florence Nightingale Leadership Scholarship, which led me to be mentored by a CIO. Today’s digital midwives have even more opportunities thanks to a PG Cert for Digital Maternity Leaders at Imperial College.
We look forward to being joined by two new digital midwives within the next couple of weeks, who have a great future ahead of them.
Misbah Mahmood, digital midwife at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, will be speaking at the Digital Health Rewired Big Debate: What’s in a name? Titles, Roles and Teams in digital nursing, midwifery, AHP and pharmacy.