As a journalist Kate had not had much experience of health professionals, and it wasn’t until she became pregnant that she even really knew what a midwife did.
“I had a general idea of course, but it wasn’t until I started having some problems with my pregnancy that I realised how valuable a good midwife is.” Kate said “the midwife visited me every two weeks and checked my progress, she could tell just by looking at me how I was doing and that really impressed me.” Shortly after receiving such good care and delivering a healthy baby girl, Kate began to think that she might have more than a passing interest in midwifery.
Kate started by doing two papers at AUT and applied for the midwifery programme. She was a bit hesitant at first thinking that a career in health might be too challenging. Her perception soon changed, “A lot of people doing the degree have families; it’s a very supportive degree, particularly for women returning to the workforce.” Kate goes on to say that the degree is structured really well and seems to fit perfectly around school holidays. As a career there is a fantastic amount of flexibility as well as plenty of scope for progression. AUT has introduced satellite units to cater for those living outside of the main cities that want to remain close to home and still want to train and be fully supported.
“Midwifery is about women looking after women.” What Kate loved most about her training was the mixture of “science and the art of maternal health, it’s not just science based, there’s a lot of narrative training, it’s a well rounded degree and you come out of it being able to hit the ground running – you’d never come out wondering if you could do it. At the end you have the theory and the clinical skills.” Every new graduate is offered a mentor and funding for ongoing education.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, two months after qualifying, Kate headed off to Senegal, Africa. As a journalist she had been fascinated with the developing world and knew she wanted to contribute in some way. “As a journalist there wasn’t really much I could do, but as a midwife I was able to go and do something useful.” It was in Senegal that Kate realised how fantastic the training is in New Zealand for midwives, “there were some midwives from other countries who were really stuck without the technology.” She was thrown in at the deep end, “it gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in the skills I had learned. The majority of the population in Senegal would never see a doctor or medical professional and I certainly didn’t have anyone to call if I was unsure, I just had to get on with it. I came back feeling like I could really do this job.”
As a midwife, Kate says it’s important to have a passion for caring for a woman and her family. “It’s a privilege to be allowed into peoples’ lives, it’s not just about delivering beautiful babies; it’s about supporting a journey into parenthood.” Potentially, says Kate, you could have a ten and a half month relationship with a woman and her family; it’s a job where you accompany them from the antenatal period and birth through to their postnatal care. In some instances a midwife might be the only health professional a family has consulted in years, in these cases a midwife also becomes a valuable link to other health professionals. Midwives work collaboratively with other health professionals but will always remain involved with a woman. From dental problems in pregnancy, mental health issues, specialist intervention, CYF referrals through to physiotherapy after a difficult delivery, the midwife remains a constant.
Kate says, “The rewards are so great; I wouldn’t go back to where I was for anything. At times it seems it can be a bit all-consuming, but there is a degree of flexibility that allows you to work in with your own family. There is also a very supportive network you become part of when you become a midwife.”
There are many options as well as flexibility with a career in Midwifery. You can choose to work in a hospital or in the community as an independent midwife, you may want to specialise in caring for pregnant women with diabetes, or in postnatal care, you may even choose to go into research. Kate has recently started a PhD in Maternal Health at AUT and is a member of the NZ College of Midwives. “I never knew what a challenging job this would be, and how incredibly fabulous too. Being a midwife challenges me like nothing else and has given me more joy than anything I’ve done.”