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Abigail’s Footsteps funds specialist midwifery training

Midwifery senior lecturer Julie Foster

Midwifery students at the University of Cumbria have received vital training provided by a charity set up to raise awareness of bereavement.

Abigail’s Footsteps was established in 2010 by David and Jo Ward from Kent following the stillbirth of their daughter. The couple say they were left traumatised by the way they were treated and were determined to help improve the way midwives help other parents.

“We now have a wonderful little boy called Reuben and a little baby girl called Bethany and to some it may seem that their arrival may have eased the pain of losing Abigail but instead it reminds me what I missed with Abigail,” Jo Ward said.

With 3,600 stillbirths in the UK each year, midwifery staff at the University of Cumbria were keen to accept the offer of training as a vital part of the skills now needed by students.

“We’re delighted to be able to offer this training to our students,” Julie Foster, midwifery senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria, said. ”As well as funding a training day at the Fusehill Street campus the charity have kindly paid for student membership of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to enable them to undertake training on the RCM’s i-Learning platform.”

The first cohort has undergone training delivered by the Sands Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity.

“It is fantastic that Sands is able to deliver invaluable bereavement care training to student midwives in Cumbria,” Fatima Bhula, bereavement care trainer at Sands, said. “Sadly 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK, so there are many bereaved parents and their families who will benefit from the skills and knowledge the students have acquired during their training.”

Delivered by a team of highly experienced trainers, it covers areas such as sensitive communication, providing practical and emotional support to parents and helping parents to create memories of their babies.

“There’s a real lack of education surrounding bereavement care and it’s really important for parents to get it right it,” Helen Baxter, third year student midwife, said.

“We’re delighted to support the university,” David Ward, founder of Abigail’s Footsteps, said. “We fully appreciate the support midwives need in training and hope this course will help provide an insight into the kind of care parents need.”

If the link with the University of Cumbria is a success a similar scheme will be offered to other universities.

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