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Should left-handed midwives and midwifery students conform to the ‘norm’ or practise intuitively?

02 September 2016
10 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 9

Abstract

Many tasks in midwifery are learned and taught from a right-handed perspective, meaning they may prove difficult for people who are left-handed. Experiences of midwives and midwifery students show that there are various barriers to learning and performing certain skills for left-handed people, and they are often forced to choose whether to persist in conforming to the ‘norm’ and using their right hand, or adapt elements of practice to suit left-hand dominance.

It has been suggested that the growing proportion of left-handed people—or, more specifically, the greater acknowledgement of left-handedness over the past century—may be the result of fewer left-handed people being ‘forced’ to use their right hand to conform to the ‘norm’, rather than a greater incidence of left-handedness (McManus, 2002). There are approximately 27 000 midwives in the UK (Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 2015); however, there is no official data as to the proportion of midwives who are left-handed, nor research into whether they practise with left-handed dominance.

This article was inspired by hearing the experiences in practice of first-year student midwives who are left-handed. It also documents the experiences of Julie Quilter, a left-handed senior lecturer in midwifery who trained in the early 1980s. Questions raised by this article include:

On commencing my midwifery training in late 1982, I was greeted the first morning by a senior tutor asking if anyone in the group was left-handed. I raised my hand and her words to me were: ‘Don't let them put you off… I'm left-handed and I'm still here. Tell them on labour ward that you are left-handed.’ At no time in my nurse training had the issue of being left-handed been raised as a potential difficulty with clinical skills, so this identification of my ‘difference’ was both surprising and puzzling.

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