Voice of an NQM: On your marks

By Anna Merrick on 24 November 2017 Midwives Magazine Newly Qualified Midwives

Newly qualified Anna Merrick enjoys some downtime before taking her first full-time job.

Eight consecutive weeks of holiday? Wow, that is more than we have had since the distant memory of the pre-midwifery era, and likely the most we will ever have during our careers as midwives (insert palpitations here). Late mornings, binge-watching TV, the occasional pleasure read, endless cake dates: I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. 

After three years of challenging training, it is nice to have some time to wind down and remember what it feels like to be semi-normal. Many of us have been enjoying the novelty of earning some real-life money with part-time civvy jobs as we await our pin, taking us back to a time of simple pint-pulling and table-clearing. Such liberation. 

Despite the indulgences, however, newly qualified midwives (NQMs), awaiting their start dates, are in a sort of limbo-land. We are registered midwives (RMs) in writing, but shifty students in soul. Yes, we are competent and ready to practise, but a large part of our minds is still stuck in the past. This was demonstrated perfectly when a good friend unthinkingly offered me a set of her student uniform, shortly after we had both completed our final placements. ‘But... we’re not students any more...’ I muttered, as the realisation dawned. Naturally, I have kept my own student uniform quietly hanging in the depths of my wardrobe, a relic of the long ago. And no, of course I have not considered wearing it on my first day as an RM.

The pessimist in me wants to call this limbo period ‘midwife purgatory’. I have pictured the endless mind-blank moments and the constant asking for support. I have already empathised with that unfortunate first woman I’ll introduce myself to. Yet I haven’t quite committed to ordering a lanyard that says ‘midwife’ on it. That’s too extreme. Perhaps I should invest in one that says ‘supernumerary’, or ‘I don’t know – help!’ instead?

I had a telling experience the other day, when the tannoy in the supermarket proclaimed: ‘Can any qualified...’ as I idled down the confectionery aisle. Me, the qualified midwife, being called to a medical emergency mid-shop! My duty of care gave me instant tachycardia as I tried to remember how to check a pulse. This all happened within a nanosecond of hearing the word ‘qualified’. It turned out that the voice-over simply wanted a qualified till-user.
I exhaled. I hadn’t taken a module on that. 

In all seriousness, awaiting the beginning of a first job as an NQM is daunting. In between securing properties, registering with the NMC and signing contracts, we are standing cautiously on the precipice of preceptorship. Both excited and apprehensive, we sneak a peek over the cliff edge and see choppy waters ahead. Yet I don’t taunt myself by standing on that edge for too long. Feet on the ground, back on stable land, I am ready. And anyway, the next episode of Come dine with me is about to begin. 

Anna Merrick is an NQM working in London, who trained at King’s College London