Archive for November 16th, 2008


The woman’s perspective

I am a 40 year-old woman who was born and, until 7 years ago, lived in a country where healthcare provision is provided by private companies and where midwives generally only work under the supervision of a doctor. I have a high-powered job in the city and feel that I should not be expected to take time off work to suit the NHS.  I already have one child who was born in this country, I was extremely unhappy with the care arrangements during that pregnancy and had issues with the midwife attached to my G.P’s surgery. Prior to my current pregnancy I suffered 4 miscarriages and was referred, under the NHS, to a specialist unit. However, I felt that the consultant was unsympathetic to my situation, was unnecessarily blunt about my weight and did not give me the time I deserved. I therefore stopped seeing this consultant and paid for private care from a different gynaecologist, I conceived spontaneously, confirmed with a private scan and this pregnancy has since continued without incident.

My first encounter with a midwife was at my G.P’s surgery. It was on one of the 3 days when I work from home and I attended with my 4 year-old. The midwife kept me waiting for half an hour, my child was bored and grumpy by the time we were called in and then the midwife said that she had not received any details about me, and anyway my first appointment should be at my home. I was, understandably, extremely annoyed and told the midwife that I wasn’t sure why I was seeing her anyway, and that I’m not sure what midwives are for. She wanted to arrange another meeting, this time at my home. All the options she could offer were inconvenient and so eventually she told me that her job-share was working that weekend and she would see if that midwife would visit. She wouldn’t give me a time but would ask her job-share to phone me that evening, if she was in. I found all this very trying, she had kept me waiting with a young child and now was unable to provide me with a definite appointment. When I expressed my irritation she attempted to tell me that it wasn’t her fault, the G.P hadn’t informed her of my pregnancy so prior arrangements couldn’t have been made and she only works 8.30 to 4.30 so I would need to take time off work in future for any appointments! Anyway, her job-share did phone me that evening and we arranged that she would come around in 2 days time, Saturday, and complete my booking.

The booking went very well. At least the other midwife appeared to have pre-organised herself and I felt far happier about going on my 2 week holiday the next day.

At 16 weeks I went to see the midwife, she was ill so her clinic was being covered by 2 other midwives. They were useless, when they listened to the baby’s heart they told me that they thought they could hear it, and then went on to suggest that I was not eating sensibly, imbeciles. I was really annoyed with their attitude, they had no consideration of the anxieties I felt due to my previous miscarriages. I had previously opted to have my nuchal scan privately at Fetal Medicine and now, because I was rapidly losing faith in the local maternity service and also the appointment they had given for my anomaly scan was inconvenient, I decided to have my anomaly scan privately as well.

Now, I’m 25 weeks pregnant. I should be seeing my midwife but when I phoned the surgery for an appointment the only ones available were for school picking up time, ridiculous. I contacted my midwife who tried to make me attend before her clinic started, that’s lunchtime, so totally unacceptable. I told her to forget about it. I’m really not bothered about seeing a midwife anyway, I’ll just see my G.P instead.

As a result of all this I have totally lost my faith in the care the NHS can provide and am considering employing a private obstetrician for all my care.

The Midwife’s perspective

I first met B at a busy antenatal clinic. She was decidedly ‘off’ when she came in as I had kept her waiting. I attempted an apology but she wasn’t about to be pacified, and was actually quite insulting about midwives in general, and especially about the midwife involved with her previous pregnancy, vitriolic would not be an understatement. Before seeing her name on my appointment list I had never heard of B so I asked her if she had completed a maternity registration form ( the method by which referrals to midwives are made), she hadn’t as she didn’t have time!! Hence me not contacting her for a home visit, I’m not psychic. After a series of failed alternatives had been offered, all of which were turned down as being inconvenient because of her ‘important’ job, her child, a holiday she had booked or a hair appointment I suggested that my job-share may be able to see her at the weekend. B decided that was acceptable as long as it was at a certain time. I explained that I couldn’t guarantee that as she may already have commitments and, that as today was her day off, I wouldn’t be able to confirm any arrangements until I could phone her that evening. I was subjected, again, to a rant about the NHS, midwives and how we expect people to do what we demand.

That evening I phoned my job-share, described how difficult B was and gave her all the contact details. The next I heard of B was that job-share had visited her at home, when B was 11 weeks pregnant, her booking had been completed and all the necessary blood tests and scans were organised. That was all, until this week when a message was left for me to contact her as she was experiencing difficulties making appointments to see me.

I phoned her and there was immediate hostility from her. She had wanted an appointment to see me that day and when she had phoned to book it the only one available was at school pick-up time. I explained that there was nothing I could offer, except to meet her at the surgery before my clinic started, 1 pm. That was no good apparently as she would be having lunch at that point, neither would an appointment after my clinic finished as it was her child’s tea-time. I then offered to see her a home on Wednesday, also inconvenient as she would be at work. B then suggested that I visit in the evening. I pointed out that I officially finish at 4.30. The response was that my previous suggestion of after clinic would have meant that I would still be working at 5.30, so surely 6.0 pm, when her husband would be at home, was possible. This was when I started to become quite irritated by this woman. It took all my self control not to tell B how unreasonable she was being, especially when she then began to list all her gripes with the NHS. She started with, once again, how pathetic and irritating she had found the midwife in her first pregnancy. She has since discovered that this midwife now works on labour ward, her reaction to this is that if she sees her she will ‘punch her in the face’. Guess she really doesn’t like her! The next targets of her speen were the 2 midwives, actually one midwife and a student, who were not totally positive about hearing the fetal heart and then attempted to advise her about her diet, ‘airheads’. Next she told me that she didn’t even know which hospital she was booked for so had no idea where to go when she was in labour. Unfortunately, as I didn’t book her I couldn’t answer this query so I told her that I would get back to her on this one. In all there was 20 minutes of fault finding, finger pointing and an obstructive attitude. The final decision was that B would see her G.P for the next antenatal appointment. That evening I phoned my job-share, outlined B’s complaints and asked her if she could remember which hospital her booking was for. Job-share was not sure but said that it would be written on the front of B’s handheld notes with all the relevant phone numbers, she still had B’s phone number in her diary so said that she would phone her and sort things out.

The job-share’s perspective

I first met B at her home. She struck me as extremely opinionated with a totally unrealistic expectation of the way in which the NHS was able to offer care. I felt that I was diplomatic in how I explained the constraints of the service, sympathetic of her previous poor experiences with the fertility expert and community midwife and very clear about how her care would be arranged. Certainly when I left, an hour and a half later, I felt that she had warmed toward midwives and knew all she needed to know about her care, and how to access it, I was therefore surprised to hear that she didn’t know which hospital she  had chosen for the birth.

When job-share phoned me about B she was ‘spitting nails’. She had felt that B was verbally aggressive, insulting and unreasonable, and was saying that she did not wish to have any further contact with her. Since I had met B, and was the one to blame if her choices were not clear, I said that I would phone her and try to clear the air. Usually when I phone women I identify myself by my first name, on this occasion though I decided to use my official title ‘Sister’, B strikes me as someone who would be impressed by a nomenclature which infers seniority, I was right. Going straight to the point I asked B to look at the front of her notes and tell me what was written there as there was some confusion, immediately she gave me the names of the consultant and the hospital! She then proceeded to say how disappointed she was with her care and how she had no faith in the midwives or the maternity unit, supporting her case with the example of the 2 midwives not hearing the baby’s heart, infection rates at the hospital and the terrible midwife she had first time round. I apologised (through gritted teeth) and was rewarded by B telling me that she had no problem with me and had felt reassured after our first visit but that since then she had been dealt with by ‘idiots’. The situation has been left that I will contact her during the week and we will work out a schedule of visits which suits her and me.

My interpretations, I am ‘job share’. B is manipulating the situation, successfully. The midwife and her student had difficulty auscultating the fetal heart due the fact that B is FAT, hence them giving her advice about diet. The midwife in her first pregnancy was a straight talker who told B that she was overweight and made no concessions to B and her demands.

The question is…….should I make concessions?

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What does a midwife do?

A midwife does far more than just deliver babies. Although a vital part of her role, assisting at the birth is a small part of her overall job and responsibility.

Childbirth in Europe has never been safer and much of this is down to the professionalism and standards of the 21st century midwife.

Typically a midwife will work in partnership with women and their families to give support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period.

In the UK Midwives work both alone and with a range of other health professionals as best meets the need of the women and families that they care for.

Midwives work in the community and in stand-alone birth centres as well as in hospitals.

Some midwives work within the NHS, others within private health care systems and some have their own businesses on a self-employed basis. NMC 03.03.2008

In the UK they are also subject to regulation in the form of supervision. This takes the form of notifying the NMC yearly of their intention to practise, declaring their fitness to do so and undergoing a yearly interview with their Supervisor of Midwives, SoM. At this event our record-keeping is examined, our updating verified and our Patient Group Directions, PGD’s, reviewed.

For those midwives working within NHS Trusts, whether on a contract or as ‘bank’, there are also mandatory study days. At present I have 3 such days per year, next year there will be 4. These study days cover a range of topics, from ‘obstetric emergencies’ through to ‘equality and diversity’, ‘risk management’ to ‘fire lecture’. It’s very much a case of one size fits all, community or hospital, labour ward or antenatal clinic, manager or preceptor, you’re a midwife so you attend.

Another yearly requirement is the IPR, an appraisal system where our competencies are reviewed using the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF), I’ve just undertaken mine, hence this post. I’m pleased to report that I am fulfilling all the criteria for my role, that I require no money to be spent on furthering my knowledge base and that no one has made a complaint about me. When I told my appraiser that I was demotivated, couldn’t wait to retire and was concerned that the low staffing levels were affecting the care we could provide she (a manager) agreed that the situation was appauling and that she was also looking forward to retiring. What an inspiration!

KSF isn’t enough though, there is also the 360° assessment. I just love all this clap-trap, what better way could there be to spend my time? This peer review process is designed to foster individual accountability for professional development and practice, as well as group accountability for overall quality of professional practice” (Toward Clinical Excellence., 2002). I just love all this clap-trap, what better way could there be to spend my time? 

So what does a midwife do? She wades through acronyms virtually every minute of her working day, whether it is listening to the FH, taking a FBC or talking to the ANC you can be sure that she is registered as an RM; has been assessed using KSF and is having trouble finding time for her caseload duties whilst turning 360 and negotiating all this bureaucratic sh1t.

*NMC – Nursing and Midwifery Council

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