Voice of an NQM: finding my voice

By Anna Merrick on 23 November 2018 Midwives Magazine Maternity Services NHS Newly Qualified Midwives

Anna Merrick discusses her concerns about maternity services in the NHS.

By the time of publication I will have been working as a qualified midwife for over a year, leaving my preceptorship and Band 5 status behind. This anniversary marks a huge achievement for all NQMs, as we welcome a new cohort of preceptors to our trusts.

Reflecting on the year now gone, it is clear that it has been a time strained with uncertainty. In among the busy shifts and challenging cases, the NHS has continued to be constrained by a lack of funding, staff shortages, retention issues and growing demands. While NQMs face their own struggles of building confidence and learning new skills, their exterior environment is being held up by unstable scaffolding with patched up concerns and quick-fix solutions. This combination of both internal and external stresses leaves many of us questioning our ability to sustain a profession in the NHS.

While I could fill my closing piece about the many opportunities, joys and positive experiences I have had over my year as an NQM, I would feel somewhat responsible for not voicing the issues that so many of us face within the NHS. In order to be responsible for women and their families receiving safe and compassionate care, it is imperative that midwives and maternity staff are treated with equally safe and compassionate standards. As obvious as it may seem, and as frequently as it is said, it is astounding that this is still not acknowledged on a wider political scale in the UK.

I am frustrated that my colleagues and I have to bear the brunt of inadequate staffing. I feel saddened when others congratulate healthcare professionals for our strength and commitment, as if managing a complex job without sufficient resources is a cause for celebration. It is upsetting to watch a coordinator repeatedly juggle the demands of no beds and no midwives. It is tiring to work without regular breaks and demoralising to not be able to provide all women with the extensive care we’ve been trained to give.

I find it difficult to talk openly about the challenges midwives face – mainly because I don’t want to spread pessimism and partly because, like many, I am apprehensive to talk negatively about the NHS. But this feeling is likely a result of what I believe to be the harmful rhetoric of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mantra within healthcare, compounded by widespread governmental/public admiration of resilience in NHS staff. I feel compelled to write because I care about women and I care about midwives – my passion is not negativity, but rather a drive for positivity. I have come to realise that it is not a weakness or a lack of resilience to admit that our job is harder than it has to be – that it could be better.

NQMs are repeatedly told that it is okay to ask for help. We are told to get support from our colleagues and to escalate concerns when we need to. We are told to find our voices. My colleagues and I need more help, more funding, more staff. Women and their families need this too. I am beginning to find my voice.

Anna Merrick is an NQM working in London. She would like to thank her colleagues of midwives, MSWs, students and doctors at Imperial College NHS Trust for their support during her first year as a qualified midwife.