The Royal College of Midwives reports a shortage of around 3000 midwives across the country. I, for one, cannot understand why, as I see tides of student midwives qualify year after year unable to secure themselves a job at the end of it. Those who do are often offered part time. But it is not for me to pass judgement of what NHS Trusts choose to spend their money on. I can only be grateful that they choose to spend a little bit of it employing me!
But what does this shortage mean for those of us who are in employment? Well I have to say I am at breaking point. You used to hear the words 'burning out' referring to midwives who had been in the profession for decades, not five years. It is a world-wide recognised problem that midwives are burning out earlier and earlier in their career. But why? Is it because as younger generations come through they are less likely to want to work hard and give it their all? I'm sure some of the older generation might suggest so - "the youth of today"!! Or is it in fact that in order to cope with declining numbers of midwives and rising birth rate, we are expected to work longer, harder, quicker. I work many more night shifts than I ever expected to work. I would be naive to ever think babies arrive 9-5, but working four x 12 hour night shifts a week with little more than a sip of water and a quick toilet break, let alone the hour meal break we are entitled to (oh and aren't paid for) is not really what I did those three long years at university for. In addition to all of this, add in that women are presenting with more and more complex medical histories. Women who traditionally might not have been able to have a baby are being offered more and more advanced fertility treatment to ensure they can concieve, along with higher rates of obesity, diabetes and greater number of multiple births. All of this has an impact on how we work and how the staffing is allocated.
You may be wondering what impact this has on women in our care? If midwives are constantly exhausted, hungry, run down and stressed to the absolute max, how can the care we provide be adequate? Well it is true that the vast majority of midwives report not being able to give the care we want to give, there is simply too few of us to too many women. But I can speak from experience when I say that midwives absolutely do give their profession their all. We sacrifice time with our families to stay late after shifts to see babies born in to the world, we spend days off working on paperwork, we attend study days in our own time as our contracted hours need to be reserved for time on the shop floor, and when on shift we do not stop trying. And as a result 84% of women reported they received excellent or very good care throughout their pregnancy and birth last year. But in order to ensure women receive the best care that we are capable of providing, I can't help but feel it's the midwives that suffer.
I am a strong believer of not being a complainer. If something is wrong, or you are unhappy about something, then either do something about it or choose to ignore it and carry on living your life. As I said earlier, I have reached breaking point. This job is taking it's toll on my life, my health, my family, my wife, and I have decided to seek out a new route. And for this reason I start a new job next week! I will still be a midwife, I will still deliver babies, but I will also care for pregnant mothers in the community, and see them after the birth too. More importantly, it will be more days and less nights, and a different pace. I will work predominantly from home, be on call for births when needed, and spend my days with women who I have gotten to know, and who know me. It is an experiment, but one that I hope will work and we will see this way of working being implemented in more Trusts around the country.
I suppose I always have an escape, or a temporary diversion, as we are planning on me trying out the other side of the spectrum and be a maternity service user instead of provider. I cannot wait to have a baby with my wife, have I mentioned that already?! But the only problem is, if only maternity leave could last forever....
|Me being a midwife on the BBC!|