Having returned to practise recently, working as a midwife is something I am absolutely committed to. In fact it is very simple. I love my work. I have hairy and scary days yes, but even when I am hypothetically on my knees I can still say with absolute certainty that I love my work.
It is also important not to shy away from the fact that it is a full on job, our work conditions are challenging, with short staffing being an everyday experience, expectations of our capacity to have things covered and safe unrealistic, along with a fatigue in our teams that is more than just tiredness from work. I am observing a pervasive level of exhaustion that is contra to being vital, fit for work and ready for whatever the day brings.
What I sense is that we are at breaking point from many angles. Our determination and innate love for work and service will keep us going for a while longer (in the current fire-fighting way) but whilst we turn a blind eye to the degradation of our well-being it is only a matter of time before there is a collapse. Perhaps we are at the beginning of really noticing this?
I wonder if we fully accepted and embraced how much we do love our work and honour the impact it has, we would then value ourselves enough to lay down some self-caring foundations that mean we can continue this work without detriment to our health.
Is it also time to be honest about the fact that our health care system is broken and that we are getting sicker and demanding more of this service rather than taking responsibility for our health and the impact of our lifestyles?
And this is one of the main things I have observed returning to practice as a midwife after 20 years away. A lot of young men and women in their ‘child-bearing prime’ are not well. There are more and more people coming into their pregnancies with underlying conditions and ill-health. This is not our normal or natural and we must be careful of accepting this as such, getting used to it, simply because it is becoming statistically common.
All we need to do is wave the flag that says we are deviating off course and it is not only the failing of our health care system that is to ‘blame’.