"Listen to Women"

"Listen to Women" is the motto of the American College of Nurse Midwives. And what a wonderful motto it is! But..... easier said than done. Listening is a life skill that many of us take a lifetime to learn or may never learn. It is also a required skill for the midwife as the above motto illustrates. It is not taught in midwifery school. Maybe it is not taught because it is thought of as something that midwives should have picked up along the way. Maybe it is not taught because it is considered obvious (it is not). Maybe it is not taught because it is considered hard or impossible to teach. I do not think that it is impossible to teach and I think that it should be taught.

I have an admission. I do not like to call myself a nurse because I am a midwife. But I am a nurse. (There, I admitted it). I have another admission. I am not naturally a very good listener. (Ask my family). But I learned some rules about listening in the first semester of nursing school, and I learned some more by trying to listen to my family and a bit more by trying to listen to my clients, and I believe even an old bag like me can learn a bit and it can be taught and therefore it should be.

First, there is a special kind of listening usually employed in the professional context, called "active listening". This kind of listening is about responding back with a paraphrase to clarify that you have understood, and at the same time to help the client to clarify her own thoughts. It is about not being scared of silences. They can be productive. It is about accepting and not deflecting negative emotion. It is about not reassuring inappropriately. It is about encouraging clients to find their own answers and solutions and showing respect for them and their process. These are concrete, learnable things and I wish they were taught in midwifery school. If they were, I believe that the American College of Nurse Midwives would be truer to its wonderful motto: "Listen to women".