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Should Australian medical students deliver babies?

Sharing the experience of normal vaginal birth is an important formative experience for medical students

Hearing or knowing “I’ve done this before” would, no doubt, be more comforting to both the labouring woman and the doctor than “Well, I’ve delivered three plastic babies — with a good deal of KY jelly — how much harder can it be?”

In late 2012, around 3500 new graduates emerged from Australia’s medical schools,1 more than twice the number that graduated in 2006.2 Whether all these young doctors will obtain intern places and future training posts has been the subject of robust discussion. Less attention seems to have been paid to the quality and extent of their clinical experience as students.35

Until the late 20th century, all medical students were required to perform at least some normal (uncomplicated) deliveries, under the watchful eyes (and, at times, the hands) of senior midwives. However, these requirements have been reduced owing to increased student numbers, increased competition from student…