This week, on Valentine’s Day, I spent an entire day with many of my midwifery colleagues talking about hearts.
Not the standard chocolate or red paper hearts you might see on Valentine’s Day, but instead, thumping, variable, wonderful baby hearts.
And more specifically, how we, as health professionals, should be monitoring them during pregnancy and childbirth, and how to recognise when things aren’t quite right.
It was a heavy, solid day of learning, complete with an exam at the end, and it’s something that we are required to complete (in some format) every year to retain our midwifery registration.
Many of the case studies we explored were, unfortunately, associated with sad outcomes, which completely breaks my heart.
And I know I’m not the only one.
Every one of us sat in that room, resolving to do better as a profession, and as individuals, and absolutely committing to learning more; trying to maximise our knowledge, so that we can deliver the safest possible care to our families.
Days like this always remind me of the huge responsibility we have when we are working in the birth room, and with pregnant mamas.
And days like this always make me appreciate what a skilled profession I am actually a part of.
I often hear families refer to us as “just” the midwife, in the same way that I was often referred to as “just” a nurse when I worked as a general nurse. The comments are never intended to offend, I’m sure of it, but it’s simply that we aren’t doctors; the ones with the information they really want, and the ones who are going to fix everything.
I wonder, though, if those families realise that when it comes to their care, it is us as nurses and midwives, who are, in many cases the guardians of their safety?
Do they know, that most of the time that a doctor is called in to help, it is because a nurse or midwife has identified that there is something wrong, and recognised a risk for their patient?
While we do make a nice cup of tea, and want to make sure you are comfortably settled with enough pillows and blankets, there’s far more to our role.
We will enter your room to answer your buzzer, smiling, and you’ll have no idea that just down the hall, 5 minutes ago, we were resuscitating a baby, or admitting someone with a catastrophic blood pressure.
Emergency responses. Blood transfusions. Inserting IVs. Managing medications. Drawing blood (and knowing how to interpret the results!). Dressing wounds. Helping people to walk safely post-surgery. Managing epidurals and pain relief. Assessing labour. Monitoring that precious foetal heart.
These are just a few of the things that we are juggling, in between filling your jug of water, and teaching you to bathe your baby.
There’s nothing “just” about us at all.
And on the days where I’m monitoring your baby’s heartbeat, I’m bloody thankful for that.
We might not be doctors, but if I can tell you one thing, it’s that we will give everything we have within ourselves to keep you safe when you need us.
I simply could not love this profession more.
(Hug a nurse or midwife today…..go on!!)
Image details: Views of a Foetus in the Womb (c. 1510 – 1512) by Leonardo da Vinci.