Bangor University: Improving the practice learning environment

Bangor University’s midwifery team are committed to supporting students in developing the skills and knowledge required for their midwifery careers. The team believes that providing positive placement experiences for student midwives can contribute to the general culture of learning and development within midwifery services. Evidence has indicated that the quality of the practice learning environment can impact on student wellbeing. Since 2015 the midwifery team has been collaborating with the university’s practice learning partners to improve the practice learning environment for student midwives.

Key actions taken:

  • Regular meetings between the lead midwife for education (LME) and senior management in the local health board to raise any practice placement concerns, including on student mental wellbeing.
  • The midwifery staff team and students were provided with undermining behaviour training sessions, including how to handle challenging situations in healthcare settings, by representatives from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
  • Continuation of undermining behaviour training by midwifery staff team for new year 1 students. The timing of the session was brought forward following feedback from the previous cohort that it would be helpful for students to be provided with this training prior to their introduction to clinically and socially complex maternity care environments.
  • The midwifery staff team used this opportunity to highlight the importance of and to encourage self-care. A self-care file and resources were set up on the virtual learning site for students.
  • The university used three course board meetings a year to focus on student feedback about the programme. Students were encouraged to communicate any concerns they have with staff.
  • Issues raised about the practice learning environment are followed up with a humanistic approach. Students were encouraged to speak to the person the concern relates to in the first instance, fostering their ability to positively challenge any concerns in practice.
  • The student midwifery society set up a ‘buddy scheme’, with all year 1 students being matched to a ‘buddy’. All students providing buddy support were provided with peer support training.


Students have noted that the LME and midwifery staff team are more visible, and students feel comfortable speaking to them about challenges in their practice learning environments. The university has received positive feedback from students regarding this work and approaches to raising concerns:

‘As a future midwife it is important to feel able to speak out and raise concerns when needed. It is also important to discuss and solve the issues and then move on. I feel this experience has really helped me going forward as a midwife. I really cannot thank the midwifery team enough for all their help and support during this time. They are always approachable and are always there whenever any of the students need help or support’. 

Midwifery student, Bangor University

Internal placement evaluations have been positive and National Student Survey (NSS) scores have risen. The 2016 NSS score for the midwifery programme was 65% overall satisfaction and in 2019 the NSS score increased to 100% overall satisfaction. Additionally, the strategies around improving the practice learning environment have also played a factor in improving the student retention rates since 2018.