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To wonder about midwifery as a career?

(12 Posts)
SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 14:02:24

Not a proper AIBU, really, but I'm not sure where else it would go.

Inspired by some other threads I'm thinking about a career change.

I trained as a teacher a decade ago but didn't do my NQT year as it was clear to me at that point that I couldn't deal with the non-teaching aspects of the job (a pity because I was ok at the teaching bit).

So, I'd be interested to hear if midwifery has the same sorts of public sector issues (excessive paperwork, targets, senior management, low pay for long hours etc, as nursing seems to) and whether midwives would tend to advise not even to think about it.

Thanks in advance!

MrsPatrickDempsey Tue 14-May-13 14:29:33

I have been a midwife for 15 years and am just in the process of leaving and becoming a health visitor. I will give you my honest opinion.

The degree is quite hard. I didn't have children at the time and you have to juggle uni lectures with shifts (nights, weekends etc - you just follow your mentor). There were loads of times when I ended up staying well after the end of the shift to be with a woman for the birth. I know from the student I mentor now that the course is really competitive; firstly to get a place and then with achievements on the course itself (how many deliveries have you got? Have you seen a breech birth? Have you delivered twins? etc etc).

I loved the job until about a year ago. It can be amazing for obvious reasons and in ways you can't imagine. I find caring for people at a time of miscarriage or stillbirth one of the most rewarding aspects of my job - others hate it.

It is emotionally and physically draining. 13 hour shifts with no drink, food, or wee are common. On Sunday I was confronted with a very scared, anxious, upset, cross couple who couldn't understand why, after 48 hrs of latent and active labour, that their baby couldn't just be delivered by CS. Despite constant reassurance, explanation, support, & encouragement she was too knackered to even understand me. He was so angry because he couldn't control the situation and I had to deal with that. It is hard.

The resources are crap ( think 15 delivery rooms staffed by 7 midwives) and pressure to tick every box for clinical governance purposes. Some people can't manage the stress and responsibility of looking after two lives. Poor outcomes are unforeseen and thankfully rare but they can mentally scar you.

You don't just deliver babies. People think this is what the job is but you obviously do so much more. For some midwives this is a key part of the job but for some it isn't. You may be allocated to a delivery suite and not see a normal birth for a month.

Shift working is not conducive to family life in the long run. I have had never had a whole Christmas/new year off and the swapping between days and nights screws up your health.

BUT - I will never be able to describe the priveledge of working with women during pregnancy and childbirth and the thrill of being the first person to touch that new life. Unfortunately it is such a small part of the job.

It is time for me to move on and such a hard decision it has been. Find out as much as you can before you committ to it.

SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 14:58:04

Many thanks for such a long and thoughtful answer - I really appreciate it.

The unforeseens thing really scares me; I think I would struggle with that, both the possibility of it and if something bad did happen.

Everything you say about the job sounds about what one might expect and on balance the negatives seem to outweigh the positives when considering midwifery as a career change, especially with a young family. I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do the job.

You sound lovely and like the midwife every woman would hope for. What a shame that things are set up so that people like you end up leaving the profession. I hope you find a better balance in HV - I'm sure you'll be the kind of HV every woman would hope for flowers

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

bluescissors Tue 14-May-13 15:05:10

I agree with everything Mrs Dempsey says I'm afraid and would add that the hierarchy and general poor morale in the NHS can just drag you down. I would not recommend it as a career if you have a young family. Do not underestimate how much shift work affects your health, sanity and relationships.

Good luck with your decision.

SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 15:15:01

Thanks for the reply, blue.

Regrettably, both of you confirm my doubts - I appreciate your candour though.

hellsbells76 Tue 14-May-13 15:23:18

I don't think it's a job you can just wonder about doing...if it isn't a burning vocation and the thing you just know you have to do, then you'll be lucky to even get a place and even then you're unlikely to survive the training. There's no way I would have put up with all the shit I have over the last 3 years (so close to qualifying now!) if it wasn't something I had to do, not something I just thought might be nice. I've barely seen my children, I've been utterly skint, my social life has been non-existent, the essay and exam and test and assessment in practice pressure is unbelievable (a third of our year dropped out), your mentors are so stressed and overworked you barely get your competences signed off and are pretty much expected to do a full staff member's job from day 1 (it's one way to learn I suppose!) And yet, I love it. That moment when a woman looks at her baby for the first time, and then turns to you and thanks you...well I'd put up with anything for a few moments like that. But it's so, so hard. And unless you really feel that urge, that compulsion...it'll probably be too hard.

SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 15:54:32

Thank you for a different viewpoint. I'm glad you have a happier experience and wish you well with your career.

I disagree about this whole 'burning vocation as indicator of suitability' idea, though, for any career. It may be what has got you through, but some people take a more measured, cerebral approach to decisions and that's fine too.

I've met people who had a 'passion' for what they do and it made them neither suitable nor competent. In fact, in the people I'm thinking of, it gave them confidence beyond their competence and seemed to be bound up with a lack of ability to reflect on their practice to any meaningful degree.

hellsbells76 Tue 14-May-13 16:14:05

I think you misread: I'm not saying a burning passion indicates suitability at all. I'm saying it's a necessity for survival and the only thing that will get you through what is an incredibly tough, demanding and emotionally/physically draining process.

SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 16:35:47

Ah, I see. It was your first sentence I misunderstood.

It does sound very tough and, as I said earlier, I truly admire your commitment.

It seems a shame that a third of your year dropped out - I can't believe all were fundamentally unsuited to the job, especially since they made it through the (presumably) well-designed and rigorous selection process.

I have my doubts that making training an endurance exercise will result in a workforce of the kind one might hope for, but I say that from a position of ignorance, really.

hellsbells76 Tue 14-May-13 19:27:40

Endurance exercise is exactly the term I've used myself grin. I certainly agree that it shouldn't have to be so hard: a little flexibility would make all the difference but there's precious little of that. There seems to be an attitude that you knew what you were getting into and there are plenty of others waiting to take your place so suck it up. Nursing is similar from what I hear - maybe it's the monolithic nature of the NHS? Of my cohort, some people dropped out because of lack of money, some because they hated seeing so little of their children, one (who would have been fantastic) was bullied out by a nasty bunch of midwives and given no support by the university angry. For others, it simply wasn't the job they'd imagined. Still others who have made it this far don't intend to work as midwives. It's not all bad and I've had amazing experiences, some inspirational tutors and mentors, and have learned so much and changed so much (for the better I think!) and I love meeting and looking after women which amongst all the politics and paperwork and crap is what it's all about. I don't think anyone considering it should be under any illusions about just how bloody difficult it is though, and a lot of the time you're clinging on by your fingertips with only your certainty that this is your vocation stopping you from letting go...

SomethingOnce Tue 14-May-13 20:36:33

Teaching, social work, nursing and midwifery...

I am certain that it doesn't have to be this way but in all these areas the problems seem to get worse and the professionals less happy.

It is strange that these vocational careers (students don't go into into them for the money) seem to be the ones that grind down even the most commited, yet we'd all be much better off if this were not the case.

You'll be great, I'm sure, hells. All the very best for the rest of your training and the start of your career flowers

hellsbells76 Tue 14-May-13 21:15:33

Thank you smile and the same to you with whatever you decide to do!

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