I’ve been trying to keep my gift a secret but I can keep it to myself no longer, I am a soothsayer . I don’t have a crystal ball, neither do I read tarot cards but I do interpret omens. I have been observing the omens and I am confident in my prediction that my little realm of community midwifery will fall into total disarray during March.
What are the omens?
- There is a little ‘bulge’ in the number of babies due during March, I’m not sure why, did we have a warm spell or did England win at something? That means that we are going to be busier, but this alone would not have me wringing my hands and furrowing my brow, there are other elements which are causing me to cry ‘woe, woe and thrice woe.’
- There are currently 3 community midwives on long-term sick leave.
- The midwives off-sick are not replaced by ‘bank’. The maternity service have spent too much on ‘bank’ cover for the hospital this year, community haven’t used any, but we have been told we cannot ask for, or expect, help.
- One of our colleagues is rotating back into the hospital. Her replacement will not be starting her orientation until the post is empty. Orientation takes three weeks, three weeks during which a caseload of 170 women will have to be covered by three other midwives, who each has the same sized caseload already.
- The covering midwives have each got a weeks annual leave during March.
- One of those midwives is undertaking a course of study at present, she has one full study day per week.
- There is a court case coming up which will involve one of the team. She has been instructed that she has to attend briefings and appear as a witness.
Well, I wrote the above at the end of February, and my claims to be able to see into the future were correct. For the past week I have found myself the only midwife on, out of a team of 4, every time I have worked, covering a large geographical area and combined caseloads of over 700 women. As a result I have been finishing late every day, with a killer headache probably due to low sugar and dehydration since I haven’t had time for a break, and with a desire to cause permanent damage to the midwives on the maternity units for discharging breastfeeding Mothers home without ensuring that the baby is feeding well. At these times I feel an overwhelming urge to tell every Mother who is having feeding problems to give the baby a bottle. Obviously I don’t give this advice I, mentally, take a deep breath and prepare for a long visit. Thank heavens we don’t give people exact times for postnatal visits, otherwise I would be spending all my time on the phone telling people I’m running late. As it is I find myself phoning women I am ‘booking’ to tell them that the leeway I had advised them of, half an hour from the time arranged, is going to be more like an hour and a half. Most are accepting of the fact that midwives find planning work difficult, when you start your day you never know how many visits and how long each will take, but there are those few who cannot comprehend why we are so ‘disorganised’ and insist on re-scheduling to another day, which really doesn’t help the situation and won’t guarantee an on-time visit then either. It would be wonderful if I could organise booking visits on the day I find I the have time to them but that is generally impossible as women work and have lives of their own so are rarely available at short notice. Weekends used to be a good time to schedule bookings, before they cut our numbers back to the bone marrow, now the weekends are as full as the weekdays and every working midwife will be on-call at least day of the weekend, so arranging a booking appointment then runs the risk of being cancelled due to a homebirth. My women and I are in a maze of time and staffing constraints and I want to just bury my head in the sand and hope that when I lift it up again all will be well and I can stop feeling as if the walls are closing in on me.
I think I may be stressed.