I have been a nurse and midwife for almost 32 years. I started as a student nurse, employed by a hospital, trained onsite in the school of nursing, lived in the nurses’ home, and counted “in the numbers” on the off-duty working as part of the ward team, and latterly as a midwife, doing my training in university-based learning, and acquiring a degree. Along the way, I worked as a staff nurse on a surgical ward and then specialised in palliative care, working in hospice, community and hospital settings. For many reasons, but mainly due to personal circumstances, I decided that continuing to work in an environment that included dealing with grief on a regular basis, was too much for me to manage for a while, and so I decided to have a career change. Partly due to having my own family, my interest in midwifery had increased, and so I made the decision to have a big career change and moved from being a Macmillan clinical nurse specialist in palliative care, to a student midwife, from expert to novice and from one end of the life cycle to the other.
It was a real challenge being a student again and focusing on learning in an academic environment. I would have said at that time that I was naturally a practical skills-based learner rather than an academic learner, but I threw myself into studying and juggled studying with the demands of a young family. I quickly realised that I needed to be super organised, to manage these competing demands in a way that didn’t neglect either; all transferrable skills for the day to day life of a busy midwife 🙂
Upon qualifying as a midwife, I began work in the same hospital my clinical placements had been in, and due to the demands of family I chose to work mainly nights, to be on-call in the day for the odd school crisis and sickness situations that naturally happen. I worked with many experienced, dedicated and compassionate midwives and honed my craft and skills as a midwife, learning from their experience.
I have always had a passion within me for people who, for whatever reason, are in difficult situations, need help, support and the opportunity to move on to better times. As a midwife we come across many women and families who do indeed need extra support for one reason or another. An opportunity came along to be part of developing a pathway for teenage pregnancy in the city. I applied for the post, not really believing I would be successful, having “just worked nights” for several years. However, I was successful, and along with a wonderful colleague we worked to discover what was already happening in our city that could support young parents. We mapped out a pathway in partnership with various organisations to offer a joined-up service, ensuring individualised plans of support in a very flexible way to families. And so, the “iBumps” pathway was born. I am sure looking back on that time, that I drew on all my experience from Macmillan nursing to work with families in a holistic way, to discover what their needs and concerns were, and offer solutions in partnership with families. Some of what we did was really subtle, and some more obvious. For example we chose to not wear a uniform, we didn’t want to put barriers in place that set us apart as the professionals. It was a great opportunity to be given the freedom to develop this new initiative in a joint post with our NHS trust, and public health. I will remember with great fondness and pride, many of the young women we worked with and the small part we played in their lives.
As often happen, situations change, and sometimes it’s time to move on in work. I left iBumps in great hands, but with some tears and sadness on my part. Working on the iBumps pathway helped develop many new skills for me that working in purely clinical environments would not have done, for example project management, audit, research, and IT skills to name but a few. With these new skills I took on a new challenge of working as a midwife research assistant on a midwifery-based research project at my local university, alongside continuing in clinical work. This has been an amazing opportunity, again learning many new skills, but very much building on my clinical background. Along with working in an academic institution came the “bug” to study further, and so I am now studying again, almost 30 years after first qualifying as a nurse, I am studying a Masters by Research (Mres). I am very fortunate to have funding through the NIHR to pursue my studies and continue to do so alongside my clinical and research work. My passion for vulnerable women continues, and I am researching pregnancy outcomes for women who have experienced sexual violence as a result of human trafficking. My journey through teenage pregnancy and studying has given me the opportunities to speak at and present posters at conferences, experiences I would never have thought possible.
One of the reasons I am sharing my work journey with you for #70midwifebloggers, is to describe how varied a nursing or midwifery career can be, with many opportunities. As we look to celebrate 70 years of the NHS, it is astounding how much has changed in healthcare over those years, and I am not only grateful for the healthcare myself and my family have received, but the opportunities it has given me to develop a varied and interesting career, that I hope has been beneficial to many other people, as well as helped me grow and develop as a person.