Tom, Midwife and Principal Educator, NHS Education for Scotland
Tom is a midwife and Principal Educator at NHS Education for Scotland (NES). He initially wanted to be a chemical engineer, but he tells us how a job in a care home changed his path.
Where did your midwifery journey start?
I started training to be a midwife in 1996 and qualified in 1999. This was a direct entry programme, which means that I didn’t need to be a registered nurse first. It was a diploma programme too which meant I was able to continue to a degree qualification.
Why did you decide to become a midwife?
When I left school, I had planned to be a chemical engineer, but then I started working in a care home as an auxiliary nurse. I realised then that a career as a healthcare professional was what I wanted to do.
I was initially interested in becoming a children’s nurse, but then found out about midwifery when I was planning my nursing application. The more that people said that I couldn’t be a midwife because I was a man, the more determined this made me to become one. I’ve had a privileged career ever since.
Can you describe what a typical day is like for you?
My role at NES is very varied and involves a combination of meetings, teaching and workstreams.
I meet regularly with clinical staff at all levels to explore their educational and development needs, as well as linking with colleagues in universities and the Scottish Government.
Sometimes I deliver training to maternity care professionals in different settings across the country, or I can be developing resources or working on papers to support current or future work.
What are the most important skills for a midwife?
The word midwife derives from the Old English mid (‘with’) and wif (‘woman’). So, the focus is very much in supporting, and being with, a woman throughout her pregnancy, the birth of her child and the immediate period after this. This extends to her family too, so some of the key skills for a midwife are being compassionate, supportive and having the ability to build a relationship with someone quickly. You also need to be observant, patient, honest and caring.
What’s your biggest career achievement?
Probably my biggest career achievement was when I secured my first job as a staff midwife in Paisley. Without this first step, everything that followed would not have happened.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of being a team midwife, neonatal midwife, senior charge midwife, advanced neonatal nurse practitioner, midwifery lecturer, senior lecturer and now a principal educator at NES.
What advice would you give to others thinking about becoming a midwife?
Being a midwife is both a privilege and a great responsibility. We always work with others, most importantly with a woman and her family, but also with other midwives and maternity care professionals. So, you need to be a team player.
Remember also that midwifery is a professional role governed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK. As such, your responsibilities as a midwife don’t end when your uniform comes off, the public and the profession expects the highest standards of you at all times.
What makes you passionate about working as a midwife?
Ensuring the safety of women and their babies through pregnancy and childbirth, both here and around the world. Anything I can do to help prepare our maternity care professionals for all possible outcomes and feel confident to deliver care gets me out of bed in the morning.
What are the changes you have seen during your career?
Most notably we are striving towards ensuring continuity of care for women. This means they receive care from a single midwife, or a very small team, who can deliver relationship-based care to meet their needs.
That close relationship is so important to empower women to have confidence in themselves and ensure we identify any potential problems early to ensure the best possible outcomes. This is not without its challenges, but it has never been more necessary.
Midwifes are here for life because…
We provide expert support, guidance and companionship to women and their families during one of the most important events in their lives.