Mentorship scheme: paving an individual and professional pathway for Black, Asian and minority ethnic maternity staff

By Dian Bates Obesity / Diabetes Midwife North Middlesex hospital on 02 November 2021 Maternity Services Midwifery Leadership Education Race matters

Numerous reports over the last few decades highlight disparities experienced by midwives of Black and Asian descent, in comparison to their white counterparts. Midwives from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely to experience unfair grievance outcomes, delayed career progression and less opportunity provisions, e.g. course advertising.

This direct discrimination is an example of organisational failure, in the way of systemic racism. It has a profound impact on the confidence, self-esteem and trust of affected midwives. Many managers do not facilitate the progression of Black and brown midwives. On the other hand, many Black and brown midwives and MSWs hold the belief that the system is broken and will not adequately support them. As a result, many try to maintain a relatively small impact on their work area in comparison to their white colleagues, including avoiding pursuit of an academic career, or putting themselves forward for promotion.

Building leadership strategies through mentoring is an example of how mentoring can help Black and brown midwives and MSWs to restructure their beliefs about the workplace and navigate organisational barriers. Through mentoring, confidence and trust can be built, encouraging staff to take steps forward in their career paths successfully. It provides useful tools to improve mind-set, focus, self-esteem and confidence, as well as a reliable support network as a resource for their professional growth. 

Midwives, unlike doctors, do not have a clear career pathway. I have spent over 24 years working within the NHS, 18 of which have been in midwifery, currently at Band 7. My educational background includes BSc RGN, BSc RM, MSc RM and PGCert non-medical prescriber. I have initiated a number of successful services, such as texting appointment reminders to reduce the DNA rate.

Currently, I am on the Mary Seacole course. So far, I have developed a better understanding of why I value having a mentor. Although I have mentored numerous students in the past who have gone on to become successful midwives, I previously have not considered getting a mentor for myself. I now believe that having my own mentor will help me to better develop my innate leadership capabilities through constructive feedback and ongoing motivation. Additionally, through the course, I aim to improve as an influential public speaker. My experience, education, and my own involvement in being mentored makes me a very useful mentor to others.

I hope that with effective mentoring, midwives and MSWs will successfully transform their mind-set through positive leadership strategies that will help to rebuild beliefs within the system. Mentoring will help us to celebrate our success and encourage us to find strategies to overcome our challenges and barriers, thus creating a learning environment that enables transformation for both the individual and their professional pathway.