After working as a midwife in London for several years, Hannah felt like it was time for a change. Now living and working happily in Australia, she is experiencing everything the country has to offer. Read Hannah’s fascinating story about working as a midwife in London and Australia.
"If I had a pound for every time someone said 'Wow, you’re a midwife. You’re so lucky, you can go anywhere with that…'
"Becoming a midwife wasn’t a decision I made based on the money or the lifestyle. It is hard work and draining, both physically and mentally, as almost all health professionals will tell you, but the job satisfaction is something I’ve never felt in any other role I’ve pursued."
Working as a midwife in London
After graduating from university I decided to move to London, consolidate my learning and explore the big city while reaping the rewards of finally earning a wage. I was incredibly excited to start this journey but I feel it only now, two and a half years after moving to Australia that I can fully appreciate the highs and lows that experience gave me, and how my journey of working as midwife in Australia has brought a whole new side to the job and my personal life.
Working at a large level three unit in a major capital city such as London will expose you to almost anything and was certainly, in retrospect, a great learning experience for me. The demographics of the population ensured diversity in clientele, from a range of ethnicities and cultural groups to the socio-economical differences, which combined, exposed me to all sorts of challenges that I feel have enriched my practice.
Three years later
After three years, the pressures began to take pleasure away from the job. Days off became days of opportunities to stop and de-stress rather than opportunities to go out and explore. Everyone copes with stress differently but I found after a string of busy shifts all I wanted to do was assume a horizontal position for as long as possible. My love of midwifery was fading. I knew a change of setting was in order. Having lived in Sydney many years before, I knew at some stage I wanted to return and this seemed like the perfect time.
Searching for roles
I found jobs in public hospitals quite difficult to search for (it could well have been due to my patience with Google) so I contacted Medacs Healthcare who did all the hard work for me. There was a bounty of opportunities all over Australia but opportunities in Sydney tended to focus around the private system.
The working environment in Sydney
It wasn’t the setting I initially had in mind but I had heard good things about this particular unit that was offered to me. Being on a much smaller scale (around 1,000 deliveries a year) I felt much more part of the team. The doctor/midwife relationship was much closer than I had ever experienced in London. I was contracted to work permanent nights on the delivery suite – with no medical staff on-site (unless called in for an emergency).
I definitely felt the care of these patients was very much in my hands. The level of responsibility never eased but the sense of pride I felt for my colleagues and the trusting relationships that developed between the midwives and doctors was very humbling.
Each consultant obstetrician had their own subtle take on procedures and protocol. This took a little getting used to, particularly after coming from the UK where policies and evidence-based practice were integral to decision-making. Despite the working environment being more suited to me, the role itself did lack those essential midwifery skills we all take joy in performing, mainly suturing and the delivering of babies. Although there were the odd few I might catch if the doctor didn’t arrive in time. It became quite the skill to know when to call them so that they made it in time but not too early!
With this better work/life balance, I was able to explore Sydney. It sounds cliché to mention the weather but it is a major inspiration to get out and about. Being more comfortable in the work environment allowed me to leave work at work and fully embrace my time off. Exploring the café culture, arts, parks and of course the beaches – there’s plenty to want to get out and do.
The Australian outback
After almost two and a half years in Sydney and the private system, I felt in need of that challenge again – the public system, midwifery-led care, and a more diverse clientele. I was also looking to gain experience in a more remote setting. The beauty of Australia is its numerous opportunities in varying locations. I made the decision to pursue a role in Alice Springs. The transition from the east coast, with beaches galore, to the central Australian desert, couldn’t be more different. The knowledge that I was still in the same country, however, provides a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise quite dramatic change of job and living situation.
The delivery of care in Australia can lack a sense of continuity. Each unit can use a variety of governing bodies from which it bases its policies. It just becomes a matter of time and practice to master them! I feel this is because the communities in which I have worked, Sydney and Alice Springs, vary so greatly in their patients’ needs and expectations.
Community midwifery appears not to be a blanket service here, like in the UK. Mothers and babies tend to stay in hospital much longer to ensure breastfeeding is well established. This is of vital importance in the Northern Territories in particular as many women come from remote communities hundreds of kilometres away that have no access to healthcare services.
A more relaxed pace of life
Both Alice Springs and Sydney, although varying greatly in size from each other, are many times smaller than London. The general pace in Australia, even in a city, tends to be more relaxed. Even the patients generally seem more laid back. I’ve been lucky enough to be within walking distance to both work environments which wins hands down over tube and bus commutes in London!
Here in Australia, I feel I can leave work at work and make the most of my time off. I finally feel like I want to go out and experience life and all the things Australia has to offer. Most units comprise a multicultural workforce. Meeting other midwives from a range of backgrounds but with similar goals and aspirations is very refreshing and inspiring. I don’t feel I would have found this state of contentment in the UK and I feel I can finally enjoy my job and my life in equal measures.
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