The third year of medical school is often considered to be one of the hardest. It is during this year that medical students are first thrown on the wards and offices of the hospital. Every day they are exposed to real patients in real settings. The days of theoretical education are over. The obstetrics rotation is one of the more intense of the third year requirements. During their time in the labor and delivery room, a medical student will get real hands on experience delivering babies. There are several things to observe in the labor room that can help the student get the most out of the experience.
Talk to the mom.
If you get the chance and it’s appropriate, take the time to talk to the mom. Don’t interrogate her, simply chat with her. Most expectant mothers love talking about their pregnancy and labor. Be sure to keep the conversation casual and be aware if it appears that she doesn’t want to talk too much – she likely has a few things on her mind during this process and may prefer to be left alone. But if you get a talkative mother, you can learn a lot about the labor process from the one who is going through it!
Talk to the nurses and staff.
Make yourself useful. If you back yourself in to the corner and act like a wallflower, you’ll be dismissed as useless and not included in any of the potentially interesting (and educational) events. The nurses and other staff who are in the room are often very willing to show you what’s going on and to include you. Be polite. Don’t be pushy. Don’t demand to be included. Show interest and be respectful of their jobs and positions.
Offer to help.
If you demonstrate the ability and desire to help with any part of the labor and delivery process, most of the time you’ll be given something to do. This may not always be the most interesting activity, but it beats being ignored.
Don’t forget the father.
The father may be in the labor room. Don’t ignore him, he can be a good source of information. In addition, he is often overlooked by a busy staff and may appreciate having someone to chat with who can tell him a little about what’s going on (which you should know as a student). The dad can often give you a fair background about the labor and pregnancy if you ask.
Follow the lead of the senior doctors.
Once the labor goes in to high gear, things can happen very quickly. Follow the instructions of the lead doctor and pay close attention to everything he or she is doing. If you aren’t sure what’s happening, be sure to ask. There’s a lot to see in the labor room. It’s often not possible to see everything in one delivery – meaning that you should try to see as many different deliveries as possible to maximize your range of experiences.