Lucy Gladwell, newly qualified midwifetalks to NHS Professionals about her new role, gives her top tips to young people starting out in midwifery.
Tell us a bit a bit about yourself and what you currently do.
I went to University straight after completing my A levels in Biology, English, Psychology and Dance. I knew that I wanted to become a midwife. I qualified in September 2016 at 21 years old, after finishing my degree at Birmingham City University. I am now over a month into working as a registered midwife at Hillingdon Hospital in North West London. It is hard work starting as a newly qualified midwife in a new trust, but I am enjoying the challenge and keep learning new things every day – something I love about midwifery. It is still taking some time getting used to signing my name as ‘registered midwife’ rather than ‘student midwife’– I keep having to remind myself of the reality!
Why did you want to become a midwife?
It’s the whole package really. Midwifery is a challenging career.
Human biology really interested me at school and I found pregnancy and birth fascinating, I love all the science behind birth. I volunteered at a local hospital during sixth form, I really enjoyed working there and the fact I could make someone feel much more at ease just by taking the time to talk with them or make them a hot drink, even though I was unable to get involved with clinical tasks. I knew that this was the right environment for me. I also love meeting new people, their different personalities, backgrounds and cultural differences.
I also wanted to become a midwife because you become an autonomous practitioner with more decisions and responsibility. You can give care that can really make a difference to a woman’s pregnancy and birthing experience. I wanted to be part of a career I could be proud of and make a difference.
What do you like most about midwife?
I love that every day is so different. The fact you can give one to one care and really make a difference to a woman’s pregnancy, birth and their transition to parenthood. You are influential in a huge milestone in that person’s life and it is up to you to be the woman’s advocate and ensure she has all the information to make informed choices. It is such privilege to be a part of her experience.
Why did you choose to apply for the Edith Cavell Leadership Award?
I had my heart set on an elective placement and I was looking at ways I could afford to do so. My colleague told me about the Cavell Nurse’s Trust. They are such an amazing charity and even offer opportunities for students to do overseas placements.
There were a few examples of leadership I was able to demonstrate throughout my training, so I thought I would challenge myself and apply!
If you could give young people who are just starting out in midwifery some advice, what would it be?
I would say midwifery is challenging. There are going to be ups and downs. I think most people have at least one time during their training or career where think “why on earth did I choose this it would be so much easier to work a normal job”.
You have got to keep remembering the passion that you went into midwifery with. There is nothing more exciting than watching a baby be born. It is a really amazing career so you just have to remember how lucky you are to be a part of such an amazing profession.
How did you feel when you found out you had won the award?
I was in shock – I never thought I would win it, there are so many amazing students out there.
What do you think makes a good leader?
I think leadership is a behaviour. For me, a leader is somebody who will motivate people and help them to reach their potential rather than somebody who feels like they are above others. Leaders empower people to create a good positive environment without necessarily telling them what to do.
Any particular leaders during your training?
Your mentors are incredibly important people during your training and they lead you to the ways that you aspire to practice midwifery in – you take the best of what you see and become your own practitioner going forward.
How important is it to have good guidance as a student midwife?
Midwives have a lot of responsibility. It’s important to have somebody who will give you enough responsibility so that when you qualify, the transition is easier. When you’re suddenly on your own in a room it can be quite daunting.
It’s also really important that senior colleagues are aware of junior midwives and offer their support so that we’ve always got somebody to ask for help. It’s so important to be able to feel like you’re not alone. There are always going to be things that you’ve not come across before so it’s important for everybody to share their knowledge and use each other’s skills to develop their own.
You used your scholarship to go to Sri Lanka what did you learn from your experience?
I went to Kandy General Teaching Hospital, which is the second largest teaching hospital in Sri Lanka. On my first day on the ward it seemed like there were so many staff but actually a lot of them were junior doctors and student nurses.
I couldn’t believe how many people were in a room watching each delivery. In the labour room there were seven delivery beds all within arms-length of each other – I was shocked by the lack of privacy. Birth is more medicalised there, women don’t seem to have the same choices and the birthing environment seemed quite harsh to me. It really opens your mind to how the world isn’t equal and highlights how women in England have a completely different experience to women in Sri Lanka.
How has the experience impacted on your life?
It really emphasizes how important the 6Cs are. They are very small things you can do every day that can make a woman’s experience or any patients’ experience much more comfortable and positive. Regardless of resources or state-of-the-art equipment, these fundamental skills should be embedded into every health care professional’s practice.
We’re so lucky in the NHS to have a multi-disciplinary team where we value everybody’s role including our maternity support workers and healthcare assistants, because they help us so much. I thought the system in Sri Lanka was more hierarchal than in England. My experience has highlighted the importance of valuing and respecting every member of the team to make a positive working environment and ensure the best outcomes for patients.
Would you encourage other student nurses to apply for this award?
Of course. There’s nothing to lose really. It’s an amazing charity – even if you don’t win the award it’s definitely worth getting involved in. It’s great that there is an organisation out there that helps nurses, midwives, and health care assistants in times of hardship.
I’d also encourage anyone to do an overseas placement. Most people will not get an opportunity to go at another time in their career. As a student trying to fund the placement can be really hard, opportunities like this that will fund the award is brilliant.
Even without the funding, it was an honour to receive the award.