This month, MIDIRS stops to chat to Sheila Brown, community midwife at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
Sheila recently won the Tricia Anderson Award presented by the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust to enable her to organise an ‘Evidence & Skills for Normal Labour & Birth’ course for 40 midwives, which is run by Denis Walsh. Sheila also received the Dame Rosalind Paget award for her holistic approach to midwifery care. Both these awards enabled Sheila and colleagues to offer 40 midwives, from across the health board, a place to attend the study day free of charge.
MIDIRS: Firstly congratulations on winning not one, but two of the Iolanthe Trust Awards! This has obviously been a very exciting year for you and we look forward to hearing more about the awards and the work involved a little later. In the meantime, tell us about your background and what led you to becoming a midwife.
Sheila: I started my career as a nurse in Canada, where I worked in maternity care for seven years. I then moved to Australia for two years, where I trained as a midwife. I worked as a midwife in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, when I qualified; however, life brought me back to the UK, where, due to NMC requirements, I had to re-train as a midwife.
Having worked in different countries and in different settings, my view is that midwifery care provides a framework for a social model of care, where women are at the centre of maternity care. My perspective was very different when I worked as an obstetric nurse in Canada. I worked primarily in labour ward and only met women when they came into the unit in labour, or with problems, and I had only ever seen babies being born on the bed. Exposure to midwifery and midwifery education led me to view birthing very differently.
If my views could change with education and exposure to active birthing, then I think anyone’s can. We had a wonderful day on the 8th of August when Denis Walsh came to Wrexham. Midwives enjoyed the day and commented that they felt empowered and refreshed to continue supporting and encouraging women to achieve a normal birth. We also left with some ideas and skills to improve the support we offer.
MIDIRS: How long have you been in the maternity field?
Sheila: I have worked in maternity care since 1995. Most recently, I have worked in the UK as a midwife since qualifying in 2007.
MIDIRS: Which areas of maternity care or research interest you the most?
Sheila:. I am interested in the public health role of the midwife, breastfeeding support and promotion of normal birth. My research interests are women’s experiences of maternity care.
MIDIRS: Can you tell us a little bit more about your work as a community midwife.
Sheila: I work from a community clinic within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. I am part of a team of midwives, who hold individual caseloads. Due to the size of our caseloads continuity is, for the most part, provided in the antenatal and postnatal periods only. We also offer home birth. As a team, we cover a large geographical area therefore our ‘office’ has lots of lovely scenery!
MIDIRS: This year you were presented with the Iolanthe Trust’s Tricia Anderson Award and the Dame Rosalind Paget award. This is an outstanding achievement and you must feel very proud. Can you tell us about the work involved for each award and how it felt to earn such meaningful recognition in the midwifery world. Also, how do you see your work progressing in future?
Sheila: I was delighted to receive the awards. My application was to support and celebrate the opening of a midwifery led unit in Wrexham and to support and celebrate the wonderful midwives we have across north Wales. It is fantastic to be able to offer the new MLU as a service to women. My application was for the Tricia Anderson award, as Tricia had a passion for normal birth. I was equally thrilled to receive the Dame Rosalind Paget award.
A colleague, Jo Lavery, helped me with the organisation of the day. We hope to encourage staff who attended the study day to take forward their knowledge and ideas from the study day in order to enhance and support their care of women in both low and high risk settings. I have to confess, this was my third attempt in submitting an application to the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust. Perhaps previous practice helped!
MIDIRS: Which of MIDIRS services do you find of most benefit in your role of midwife?
Sheila: I periodically look at the journals in my local health library and in the past have listened to the podcasts.
MIDIRS: When you are away from work, how do you spend your time relaxing?
Sheila: I like to walk, cycle and camp. The UK has lots of nice places to visit!
MIDIRS: And finally, if you could give one word of advice to newly graduated midwives, what would it be?
Sheila: Have faith in the normal physiological process of birth. Sit and watch the events of labour unfold; you will learn so much from just being there and watching. If you can, attend Denis Walsh’s study day and if you are unable to attend, I would highly recommend reading his book.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is the largest health board in Wales and has 11 Clinical Programme Groups, serving approximately 676,000 people across north Wales.