Midwifery lecturer shines at national award ceremony

Midwifery lecturer Maxine Chapman has triumphed at a national award ceremony for her efforts to ensure culturally sensitive working practices.

The Royal College of Midwives Awards (RCM) celebrate and reward outstanding achievements in midwifery and are benchmark for excellence. 

Maxine, from the University of Leicester, clinched the 2023 Unsung Hero category for Midwives or Higher Education staff from a Black, Asian or Ethnic background, thanks to her efforts to champion quality, diversity and inclusion alongside culturally sensitive working practices and high standards for all patients. 

She was among a team of people who helped to develop a ‘decolonising midwifery education toolkit’ with the RCM to address inequity in health education.

Her nomination said her work on the toolkit had ensured improved care outcomes with students now more likely to recognise unwell women and babies such as those with jaundice or rashes.

Work to decolonise the curriculum is vitally important say the RCM. Colonialism within midwifery education can both disadvantage non-white students and put pregnant women at risk. Addressing this issue is seen as crucial to ensuring that the curriculum educates students to care for women and babies from non-white backgrounds and supports people from all backgrounds and ethnicities.

Speaking after the award ceremony in London on Friday (19 May), a delighted Maxine said: “I’m elated to have won. This award acknowledges the effort to ensure culturally sensitive education and practice for all women, to improve the student experience and outcomes in care for the global majority. I hope the award inspires others to continue this very important work.”

RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton, who presented Maxine with her award highlighted how crucial her work is.

She said: “I am proud to present Maxine with this award. She has made a huge contribution towards midwifery education, particularly decolonising the curriculum for student midwives. This is such an important piece of work, which is far more than just removing the odd word from a textbook. We live in a multicultural world, and we need to widen the lens of midwifery education so that it’s relevant for all backgrounds, races and religions. The work Maxine does is having a significant knock-on effect on women and families in the maternity services. Huge congratulations to Maxine.”

Ensuring the midwifery curriculum trains midwives to provide outstanding and safe care for all backgrounds by decolonising the curriculum comes at a vital time. 

A recent MBRRACE report in maternal outcomes for Black and Asian women in the UK showed stark findings: Black women are nearly four times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth and up to a year postnatally than white women; and women from South Asian backgrounds are almost twice as likely to die.

Commenting on the win, Danni Burnett, Director of Midwifery at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, which partners with the University of Leicester to help educate and train expert midwives, added: “It is essential that maternity care is safe and personal for all and therefore it is vital we work together to improve equity for mothers and babies, particularly in an area as diverse as Leicester and Leicestershire. We are proud of Maxine and her contribution to the development of Decolonising Midwifery Education toolkit to address inequity in health education.”