The UK has changed beyond recognition in the past three weeks. Covid-19 has come to visit and is making their presence known to each of us in different ways. For some, that means isolation away from other family members and friends, for some it means more time than ever in one space with children and partners, and for others it means going to a place of work on the frontline. Be that a supermarket or ITU.
For me it means talking to my mum from behind her glass window and bringing my daughter, who has mental health issues, and her partner to stay with us at this especially challenging time. But what about work as a midwife? What has that meant for us? I hope to be bringing a snippet of midwife life through Covid-19 to you each week, through the eyes of the ARM, our steering group and our members. Starting with me. Your website and social media coordinator.
How has your work life been affected?
My main job is ‘governance support midwife’, which means I work alongside the patient safety midwife, investigating datixes (the safety reporting system in our unit), preparing for the weekly patient safety meeting and supporting with HSIB (Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch) investigations. Therefore as an office based member of staff I am in an ideal position to be mobilised wherever needed. At the beginning of this crisis I was quickly trained and deployed to provide mask testing to staff in our maternity unit. Before the lockdown happened it really brought it home to me that this virus was real and that we needed to be prepared. While the general public we’re watching what was happening around Europe, I was watching how our senior team were working at full speed, to get our small unit ready and prepared to deal with what we may be faced with. And they haven’t stopped yet. Thankfully despite the challenges being faced by other units around the country, and perhaps some knee jerk reactions to closing midwifery led units or removing homebirth cover, Cornwall has been able to continue to offer a full spectrum of birthing options, including home, AMU and three FMUs.
What challenges have you felt personally during this crisis?
For me, I am a creature of habit. I find change to routine can be unsettling at first and this was no different. Plans could change on a daily basis as we learned more about how we needed to respond to the emerging crisis. As staff numbers started to be affected by self isolation or illness then you have to be preapred to work in any area that’s required. I am sure many of us have felt that our life and work are no longer under our control. For those of us in the NHS, we are visibly seeing the effects of Covid-19. The empty patient car parks, now filled with vital staff cars. Security guards on the entrance to our workplace. Colleagues in masks, and no longer able to give a hug when things are all getting too much. I guess I am quite a sensitive person, who absorbs the visible and tactile world around me, and that has changed dramatically now.
What are you doing to care for your own wellbeing at this time? Mentally? Physically?
For me it has to be to limit the amount of news and social media I consume about Covid-19. That has been a real challenge being newly appointed to the role of website and social media coordinator for ARM! So I have mainly stayed off Twitter for a while as that was the main place where it was hard to escape from. I’m sure some would say that’s burying my head in the sand – but I know this will be a long journey and it was important for me to recognise my own susceptibility in order to gradually accept this strange world we are living in. I have a regular meditation and yoga practice that has helped me stayed grounded through this and I try to share my experiences of this with colleagues, encouraging them to make time for themselves in small ways.
Finally, any words of encouragement at this time?
Finding small spaces of joy in each day is vital I think. What one thing made you smile today? What one thing are you grateful for? A gratitude practice is a wonderful thing without a pandemic, but now even more of a blessing. I am also hoping that we can all get online as ARM members to support each other at this time, hopefully creating some online meetings and opportunities to come together. And don’t forget we have the Virtual International Day of the Midwife coming up on May 5th. So that will be a great opportunity to come together, to learn and celebrate our work as midwives.
My joy has always been in supporting and optimising normal birth…and birth goes on in a pandemic!