I have been recalling a time when I wept. It was about 3 years ago while listening to radio 4 interview with a midwife.
She was talking about her long career working in the NHS (through an actress due to a fear of being bullied).
As I think about her, and my tears, I notice the sadness remains and little has changed.
In the stilted words of the actress I recognised my own experience of an environment ‘over’ managed by deeply flawed managers, true embodiments of the ‘Peter principle’, promoted beyond their level of competence, desperately struggling to keep their heads above water as the rising tide of audit paper threatens to drown them.
Over the years I have been told that things will get better, there will be more midwives (nurses etc) and in truth nothing really seems to change in terms of the raising demands upon the service not really being met with increased resources.
So often the governments response seems to be to ‘inspect’, or ‘audit’. When will we wake up and realise that culture and moral can not be managed from the out side in.
The values that took most of us midwives into the work are a long way from the profit driven motives of the market.
We didn’t do it for the money and we still don’t, we just want to make a difference to the birth experience of those women we are with.
Yet I have heard midwives speak in horrendous ways to labouring women, I have seen managers seem to turn a blind eye to desperate staff shortages, I have talked to newly qualified staff who are leaving within a year of graduation to pursue different work.
Some thing is desperately wrong and appointing a new hospital head of ‘Inspectors’ is definitively not the way forward.
Some one told me that some universities screen their applicants for the midwifery course with a maths test, the pass mark can be as high as 100%!
That got me thinking, maybe we have created methods for whittling down the thousands of applicants that leave those with the empathic skills required to ‘be with woman’ unable to proceed to interview?
My humble suggestion, first ask those who applied because of watching ‘call the midwife’, get rid of those who raise their hand.
Then ask, who thinks ‘one born every minute’ show good levels of communication skills and care? Those who say yes, we say good bye to, and finally any one who gets over 80% in the maths test are on their bike as well.
I know some people think Odent is extreme when he suggests that only women who have had a good experience of the birthing process should be midwives and obstetricians, but he could have a point.
At least let’s discuss how we can attract and recruit compassionate people with values that underpin our age old commitment to be with women as they birth.