Back to ‘student’

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Back to ‘student’

I have now been a student midwife for a couple of months. I had many expectations; I thought it was going to be remarkable. Thankfully, so far I have not been disappointed.

Being a short course student midwife, (already a registered nurse) is intense. By 6 weeks we had completed a vast amount of the theory on the childbearing continuum, including anatomy and physiology, of which seemed like the whole of Grays Anatomy- and I’m not referring to McDreamy and McSteamy.

We have been out on placement for 3 weeks now. It has been wonderful caring for women and their families, everything I had hoped it would be. I will be honest; I am currently struggling being a student again. I have been working in a 20-bedded ICU, as a senior staff nurse for the last 6 years, where I had great autonomy.

On a few occasions I have reverted to being called ‘student’ again. Since Kate Granger’s #HelloMyNameIs campaign, I say, “hello my name is Sarah”, whenever I meet someone new. This may be a woman, her family or a member of staff. I had students working with me when I was nursing, if someone called them student, I would say, “her/his name is…”. Maybe staff say student because we may not have introduced ourselves. To all fellow students out there- tell everyone your name and then if they refer to you as student tell them your name again, lets be proud pronouns rather than a bog-standard noun!

I feel so much more confident being a student now; I have been in the caring professional for 9 years and can quickly build up a rapport with women. I am not intimidated to speak to a doctor or a senior member of the team, I can read body language, I’m mindful of my language, by this I do not mean swearing but encouraging positive language. Something that Anna and Sheena Byrom have taught me so much about.

I was 20 when I started my nurse training, in 9 years I have been through so many adverse, life-changing events, which have had profound effects on my life. I married, watched my father in law, whom I loved dearly pass away from lung cancer, had 2 daughters, was myself diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 25 and I’ve had a hysterectomy. All these life experiences have changed me as a person and as a professional. I am confident, I have courage and compassion, and I’m strong. I stand up for what I believe in. What I believe in is the best possible care for women on the road to becoming a mother, through this wonderful journey, to which we have the pleasure of bearing witness to.

I imagine this period of adjustment will soon settle. I embrace change, change is often essential to improvement, development and progress of our services, I will try and change the word student being used instead our names. These are minor matters, all in all, so far so good. I hope this feeling never leaves me; I am doing what I was born to do.

Why do I want to be a midwife when I love being a nurse?

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At 13 I was in awe of my mother. I watched her train and become a nurse. She had 4 children the youngest being 18 months, from then I knew if you wanted something enough and you put in some hard work, anything is possible. Not long after she then went on to become a midwife, I’m so proud of my her, she has overcome many difficulties in her life and to bring up 4 children and build a career at the same time is all the inspiration I needed to follow in her footsteps (and I am not referring to the 4 children). I thank her for so many things in my life including being a wonderful mum and my role model.

I’ve always wanted to look after and care for others. I was such a mother hen growing up, loved babies and children, always cared for my siblings when they hurt themselves, always wanted to help make people better when they were ill. Once I decided healthcare was my chosen profession, I applied to the University of Central Lancashire, I wanted to be a midwife in the long term but I chose nursing because that was the path my mum went down and I thought that becoming a nurse would provide me with many transferable skills.

So I started my adult nurse training in September 2005. I enjoyed the course so much and made some lifelong friends in the process. In my 2nd year I did my ‘high tech’ placement, I was allocated ICU at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, in Lancashire. I knew in my first week this is what I wanted to do when I qualified. I enjoyed other placements but nothing came close to ICU. I went there again for my internship and a job came up at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, on the cardiothoracic intensive care unit, it was over 30 miles from home but the job I wanted.  The interview was the day before our wedding, they gave me the job there and then, best wedding present ever!

Fast forward 5 years and I am still working at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and love my job, I’m now a senior staff nurse. Midwifery was still my chosen career but I was enjoying nursing so much, my feelings at the time was ‘if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’, we also decided it could wait as we wanted to have a family. Our beautiful girls, Libby and Evie are now 4 and 2 and a half. Our family is now complete and I felt it was the right time to become a midwife. So I applied for the shortened midwifery course, this is for registered nurses who wish to become midwives, meaning you will be dual qualified. It’s a gruelling 20 months of hard slog, I’m ready for it though. After a 10 minute presentation, an interview and a Maths and English test I came away feeling good but not confident. A week of waiting went by sloooooooowly, very slowly, I got the call- I’m in!!!!! Unfortunately I had to defer for a year for health reasons, I needed a hysterectomy due to previous cervical cancer (this will be a blog for another time). I’m now 5 months before starting and I am so excited.

Currently I come home from work after a long day and reflect, what an amazing job I do, so worthwhile. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, I have made a difference to a person who is critically ill and I’ve help keep them alive. Patients I care for are ventilated and sedated, often on some very potent drugs that need to be titrated in such small amounts that an error could be fatal, it gives me a buzz, I love my job. So why am I leaving this job to be a midwife? In certain terms the jobs couldn’t be more different, one is arguably the most medicalised job a nurse can have, constantly relying on monitors, artificial ventilation, induced sedation and I’m leaving to do a job where you take a step back, where we are there to facilitate the most natural process a human undertakes, one that women have been doing for millennia. My answer; I don’t know, well I do but as I sit here I can’t type the words to explain it, I just want it, with every bone in my body. I want to be there to support women; strong, remarkable women who are undergoing the most astonishing experience of their lives. I want to witness the first time they look into their babies eyes and discover what true unconditional love is, to witness that first feed of baby suckling on their mother’s breast if she chooses to breast feed, observe their bare bodies touching, skin on skin. To potentially see the look of the parents falling deeper in love with each other, in the realisation the gift of this child has given them an eternal bond. To see a new mother look at her newborn baby and discover the thoughts and feelings her own mother has been through all of her life. I am not naive enough to think that midwifery is all sweetness and light, it isn’t. The good parts are magical, the difficult ones, devastating. My ICU role is heart breaking at times and unfortunately so will be my role as a midwife. I will miss nursing, the aspect I will miss the most is watching the shear resilience in patients, when someone has been given a poor diagnosis and we presume they won’t make it, to watch them come back from the brink of death and astonish all the nurses and medical staff. I like to help make patients better and to feel like what I did that day has aided in their recovery. In midwifery I want to empower the women and facilitate a positive birth experience.

I like to think I will always be a nurse, come September I have been a nurse for 6 years and gained some valuable knowledge that I hope will make me a good midwife. Being a midwife is demanding, it is complex and diverse, but I’m ready for it. I am under no illusion that it will take a lot of dedication, I really believe that this passion I have will give me what I need to complete my dream and be a midwife.

Sarah

I’m 25, I can’t have cancer

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“It has been said that ‘time heals all wounds’. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it’s never gone.” Rose Kennedy

In 2010 I received my letter to attend my 1st routine smear as I was 25. I booked and attended without a second thought. It was far from the most pleasant experience of my life, but after a couple of minutes it was over and done with. 3 weeks later after arriving back from a lovely weekend away with my family I had a letter waiting for me. Severe dyskaryosis it said. Being a nurse I had a small amount of knowledge on abnormal smears and cell changes. As soon as my husband saw the letter and saw pre-cancerous cells he immediately thought the worst. We had lost my father in law just 3 months prior. I reassured my husband and informed him pre-cancerous cells were common, cervical cancer is rare. 

I attended my colposcopy and had a lletz procedure, my consultant informed me she wasn’t certain she had clear margins. It was a possibility that further treatment may be needed. I still believed everything would be ok and thought this was the end of it. A further 3 weeks later and I received a phone call from my consultant’s secretary, it was a Friday afternoon, and she asked me if I could come in on Monday to discuss the results of my biopsy and further treatment options. Again, my husband went into a major panic. I knew it wasn’t great news but I convinced myself and my husband it was further lletz as they hadn’t got clear margins. I was wrong.

Monday came, I had swayed my husband to go to work as there was nothing to be concerned about. I went with my mum and my 7 month old daughter. We went into the ‘quiet room’ and I still didn’t think it could be cancer. Not until I heard the words come out of her mouth, the words you could never envisage someone saying to you “I’m sorry to tell you this Sarah but you have cancer.” I couldn’t have, I’m a nurse I am the one who sits with the doctor and supports patients when they hear shattering news, it can’t be the other way around.

From this point on things were foggy. I was whisked off for x-rays and an MRI. I remember the radiographer asking me if I was ok, I erupted into tears and sobbed on her shoulder. I didn’t even remember her name but I will never forget that woman, still numb from the news, she was there when I needed her. I felt safe with this stranger. The MRI lasted 40 minutes or so, at one point they had to repeat a section because I could not lay still, my body would not listen to my brain I could not stop the tears. Adele played on the radio ‘Make You Feel My Love’ it took a long time until I could listen to the song again. My husband had been calling and calling but I ignored his calls, how could I tell him over the phone that he wife has cancer. Cancer! Just 3 months after his dad had lost his fight. He was leaving me voicemails and with each one I could hear the fear in his voice. I called him, he knew. “Please tell me it isn’t Sarah, you don’t do you. You don’t have it.” I said nothing and then I cried. “You can’t have cancer, you just can’t.”

In the long days following we just waited for the results and waited to see the oncologist, the person who would decide our fate. What do you do when you’re waiting to find out if you will need a hysterectomy or even chemo and radiotherapy? After the initial shock there were all kinds of emotions running around my head, anger, confusion, fear, guilt, sadness, disbelief, the list goes on. Oddly my main worry wasn’t that I would die, it was that I couldn’t have another baby. Yes we blessed to have Libby but I desperately wanted to have at least one more child. I struggled telling the people I love that I have cancer, it was so surreal. It was like reliving the moment of diagnosis over and over again but I felt for them more than I did for me. As expected it hit my parents and my husband. I was positive that whatever stage this disease was at I would fight it, head on. Who did this disease think it was invading my body?

The scans and x-rays came back, it hadn’t spread, the cancer was caught early, 1a1. This meant it was contained to my cervix. I was offered a cone biopsy as we wanted fertility saving treatment. On my husband’s birthday I had the best phone call of my life. Bev, the specialist cancer nurse called me and told me they got it all. I didn’t have cancer anymore. Tears are rolling down my face as I type this. I could not possibly express into words how it felt. I sobbed, yes again! I was relived, elated, and euphoric. I had been given a new lease of life.

My smear saved my life, I dread to think what would have happened if I would have put it off or waited. I am not saying the system is without flaw, I wish my cells would have been pre-cancerous but I can’t dwell on that. If you are reading this, I beg you please keep up to date with your smears. We are so lucky to have the system we do in the UK. So many lives have been saved, I am living proof. Ask every female you know if they are up to date too.     

11 months later we had another baby girl. The pregnancy was complicated due to treatment, I needed a suture in what was left of my cervix to prevent having a miscarriage or a still birth. I attempted a vaginal birth but unfortunately I had cervical stenosis, this meant my cervix was very stubborn and would not dilate more than 1cm. So Evie was born via a Caesarean section. Our family was complete. I never dealt with the diagnosis at the time, I was so focused on beating it and then became pregnant so quickly after that I never stopped to think about it. It was only last year in 2013 that I allowed myself to think about the cancer. I needed help dealing with my emotions and had counselling. My main fear was the cancer returning so after discussions with my oncologist we decided to have a hysterectomy. In January at the age of 28 I had a total abdominal hysterectomy. It was the right decision for me but it was a difficult one. I can never have any more children, it’s a hard pill to swallow but I am here to stay, to enjoy my beautiful children and watch them grow up. My husband has been through so much and without him I’m not sure where I would be. He is my rock.

I love you Mr Johnson

Let’s give this blogging a go!

So I have been asked to do a blog for Britain’s Nurses, an excellent website for student and qualified nurses. Yes I thought, then I thought some more.. and more and decided I should try and have my own blog.

So who am I? I’m a mum of 2, I’ve been happily married for 6 years and I’m a nurse. I am a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse and I have been qualified for 5 and a half years. Over 3 years ago at the age of 25 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, it was detected after my first routine smear. I regularly campaign to increase the uptake on cervical screening.In September I embark on my next adventure. I am going to be a midwife, to say I am excited is an understatement. I plan to blog about my role as a nurse, how it feels to be on the other side of the NHS, cervical cancer and screening, my midwifery training and the trials and tribulations of juggling family life with studying.