Student voice: Happy birthday!

By Heather Gilchrist on 25 May 2018 Midwives Magazine Student midwives

Heather Gilchrist explains her love for teamwork and why working on her birthday was a gift in itself.

I’ve been managing teams since I was 22 years old. It can be a lonely old journey when you have budgets to hit, staff to manage, motivate or challenge, and doubting more often than not whether you’re doing anything effectively.

I might be half a century on this planet but it’s only recently that I’ve realised what a joy it is to be part of a team. To be taught instead of teaching.

I am thrilled to be able to retrain as a midwife now. My brain is on fire most days studying and learning – really learning, and knowing that I am supported and encouraged to be the best I can be by mentors, who pass on their skills and knowledge with such care and generosity of spirit – helping a student midwife on the journey they were once on too.

Today I felt part of a team, the team I’ve been working with in the last three weeks in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. Working with midwives who don’t know me well but include me respectively and without question. We work hard together and now and again you’ll pass each other
in the labour suite corridor and share a smile or a giggle as you run to get new sheets. Or when you congratulate the mums they are looking after as they are wheeled with their new babies to be taken to postnatal wards.

Today, after a really intense urgent birth, when I took a second from focusing on the woman I was caring for; helping her to breathe and push and concentrating on the next contraction, I looked up to see eight pairs of eyes watching me in theatre – consultants, anaesthetists, paediatricians and support staff – all waiting for me to tell them when I felt the next contraction coming, hearing me coach her and calm her. I thought ‘oh Lord – this is proper responsibility!’ My mentor was right there supporting me, and I was right there supporting the woman until finally a little girl was born and the emergency that could have been was instead calm, controlled and safe.

Later, at the end of the 12-hour shift, I was asked to go around to get some paperwork from the duty room and all the midwives, sisters and students were there to surprise me for my birthday. A cake with candles and singing and lovely birthday wishes – my first birthday surprise at work ever. I can’t believe how satisfying it is to just be ‘one of the team’. An extraordinary team!

Some of the midwives thought I was crazy choosing to work on my birthday, but I couldn’t think of a better way than being there for a new mum at the most vulnerable time of her life – to calm and encourage her and empower her and to share my birthday bringing a new little soul into this world – happy birth day us!

Tips for teamwork success

  • Respect the strengths and skills that each person can bring to a team, it will be stronger for the diversity
  • Be tolerant of team members' differences
  • Celebrate the successes and the challenges together, it remains true - there is no "I" in team

Heather Gilchrist is a second-year student midwife studying for a master’s in midwifery at the University of the West of Scotland.