I listened last evening to Nancy White's 10 minute lecture on elluminate and things feel like they are really coming together for me. I am really pleased to be involved in 'online learning communities'. I think it is time to go back to my thesis and see how all of this is linking in together.
My study found that midwives love to learn by getting together (communities of practice). For those who were lucky enough to have local accessible groups they were involved with, this was reasonably easy and was satisfying for them. For those who were more isolated there were few opportunities to physically get together with other midwives and also very limited access to other health professionals. The more isolated midwives were mostly stronger users of online sources for information however they still stated a preference for face to face networking. These midwives wanted the ability to get together and chat with other rural midwives to share stories and experiences and find out how other midwives deal with issues for practice or the management of the rural midwifery service.
Another comment that was made by one of the midwife participants related to Nancy White’s ‘looking over the shoulder’. She said that it was difficult in rural practice to introduce new concepts or skills into practice as there was no-one to role model it for them. She found that she would hear about new innovations at workshops or study days but would not necessarily have the confidence to go back and put it into practice because she did not have the opportunity to look over someone’s shoulder and see it used in practice.
Pulling some of the thoughts I am having together. If individuals with a shared experience come together in a trusting and sharing relationship, as described by Sheryl, they have the opportunity to pool knowledge and experience. This provides an opportunity to identify common themes that might be emerging in practice. As Nancy said, “Together we have so much more potential”. I think this potential is to generate new ways of looking at things and perhaps start the beginning of a research process that can provide evidence of what works and what does not work in practice for the group. It also provides the opportunity to look over the shoulder of others and perhaps build confidence in trying new things.This is in addition to the benefit of the supportive relationships that can be built through networking.
The challenge is how to provide the opportunity for rural midwives (or any isolated group) to do this. Perhaps if our midwifery students are happily using these types of networking tools when they go out into the rural areas it will stimulate interest with rural midwives. Perhaps the NZCOM journal article which my colleague Sarah Stewart has written will be a start and provide a opportunity here. There is definitely room for more thinking and reflection on this.