Nursing and Faith

Nursing and Faith

I had always wanted to be a nurse – I can’t remember wanting to be anything else.

I began my working life as a student nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, starting work at age 18 and thrown in at the deep end.   My first day on the wards was an eye opener – in more ways than one – as it was my job to look after an elderly gentleman who had suffered a stroke.  After one week we had built a good rapport.  However, one afternoon when I came to work I learned that he had died.  As a young girl, this was a shock for me.  I still remember him – in life and in death. I was confronted with the reality of a mortal life and that not all I came into contact with would have the same belief as I do.  That event had an impact on me and, were it not for my faith, I think it would have been even harder to deal with.  In a way this set the blueprint for assisting those who suffer loss.

After further training and travel I found myself in Alice Springs.  I stayed for 4 years and in that time learnt a lot.  Returning to Adelaide I came to Calvary Hospital, and I have been there now for 30 years as a midwife.

So what does being a midwife entail?  Looking after women who are having babies is the short answer.  But there is a whole lot more involved – caring for the women during pregnancy, the birth process, caring for the new baby, to name a few.

Is it a job?  Yes.  Is it a vocation?  For some, yes, for others, no.

For me, it is both an occupation and a vocation.  I didn’t think that I would be a midwife, but I am.  Why?  Because I am good at it, because I enjoy it, because I bring something of myself to my work and because I sense that this is what I am meant to do.

Nowadays I do more than just midwifery – I manage the maternity unit at Calvary.  I have 40 staff to manage and mentor.  I am responsible for a budget of seven figures.  I am responsible for ensuring my staff are competent to provide appropriate care to women and their partners during the birth process – even though I cannot ensure that all will have the type of birth they want.

Calvary is a Catholic Hospital and a values-based organisation – namely, healing, respect, hospitality and stewardship.  This lines up very well with my own values.  When managing difficult situations with staff I endeavour to use these values, listen to advice and then make a decision.

A good example occurred when a young staff member and a doctor were in a stand-off, the situation potentially volatile.   Both the doctor and the midwife were in my office making allegations about each other’s behaviour.  Meanwhile, the person in the middle – the patient – was not being cared for, so a decision had to be made in the best interests of the patient.  The working relationship between the doctor and the midwife had totally disintegrated – at least for that day – so the midwife was replaced by another and deployed elsewhere.  As a result, the patient had the best possible care, the doctor had a midwife that he could work with and the first midwife was kept safe by removing her from an intimidating situation.

Perhaps the most important situation where faith assists is in the face of the unexpected.    To be able to support, comfort and empathise with a couple who have lost a baby is when my faith shows me the way, to give the best possible care to those in a state of grief.

It is a great privilege to be present for a young couple as they start a family.  Being a midwife is wonderful.