Parentcraft and Relaxation: Nursing Notes, May 1975

This month’s post comes from the May 1975 issue of ‘Midwives Chronicle & Nursing Notes’.

‘The midwife working outside the hospital in the community needs to be highly skilled, highly mobile and highly intelligent. She needs a depth of knowledge and experience, for the normal delivery is only a small part of her work…The midwife is essentially now giving service to the whole family, not just the baby.’

These were the words of the Divisional Nursing Officer of Midwifery, representing the City and Hackney Health District in the opening article for the journal, looking at the change occurring in midwifery in the community. This change was due mainly to the availability of hospital beds for mothers, and the recognition of the benefits of babies returning home with their mother as soon as possible. As a consequence, midwives in the community were rarely involved in delivering babies, and so needed to find some way of retaining these skills and expertise.

Of course, the Royal College of Midwives was an old hand at providing midwives with the training they needed, having ensured since way back in 1888 in the first journals that classes and lectures were available for those who required them. In 1975, the journal advertised diploma courses in midwifery and for midwifery teachers, clinical practice courses, refresher courses, and preparation for parenthood courses, and the May issue sees the fifth in a series of articles entitled ‘Guidelines for Teachers of Parentcraft and Relaxation’. Number five in the series concentrates on the new arrival, with a list of areas to be covered relating to the baby, feeding, the mother, and (not to be forgotten) the poor father who one must remember will ‘be in a learner situation when baby arrives home.’

An article on the midwife tutor courses held at Surrey University explains how the courses have been developed to include principles and practice of adult education in general, as well as the more specific training for health workers. Examples of the timetables and courses held at various locations throughout the UK can be found among the papers held in the Archive of the RCM, the most well-known of which is the High Coombe Midwife Teachers Training College (1950-1986) at Kingston upon Thames.

It was in 1975 that the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council reached agreement on the pay claim put forward by the Staff Side. The salary for first year students was raised to £1560, £1641 for second year students, and £1740 for third year students. There was also an increase in lodging charges and housing allowances. Thus the more familiar approach to support for midwives and their conditions of employment is shown – and two articles later in the journal reveal just how advanced the UK, and the RCM in particular, was in this. The two articles in question look at how the Frontier Nursing Service in the US was the only nurse-midwifery service in the US between 1925 and 1975, while in this year Canadians were still discussing a possible national association of midwives for Canada.

These later volumes of the journal are marked by a more modern and friendly approach to members, with a new section of topical news and notices, such as the health agreement signed between the UK and the USSR to provide for reciprocal health care for British and Soviet citizens while visiting each other’s country, and the issue of Senior Citizen railcards by British Rail. Other news includes a feature on health issues covered by the Consumers’ Association magazine ‘Which?’, comparing baby carriers with push chairs and x-ray procedures between different services.

The advertisement featured below is just one example of the more light-hearted approach, Senokot being a popular laxative.

Midwives Chronicle, May 1975

Penny Hutchins, RCM/RCOG Archivist

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