Clare Patterson followed her mum’s footsteps when she decided to train as a midwife – despite her best attempts to encourage her daughter to choose a different career.
And now, three years after qualifying, Clare is working as one of East Kent Hospitals’ specialist bereavement midwives, supporting families after the loss of a baby.
Despite the obvious emotional demands of the role, the ability to really make a difference appealed to Clare even as a student midwife.
She said: “I saw lots of bereavement cases as a student – my mentor would often be allocated to care for them, and it was a privilege to be able to help families even in a small way.
“Once I qualified I knew I wanted to work with bereaved families. I had family and friends who had gone through it and I knew there were areas we could improve.
“Now we have a dedicated bereavement midwife and bereavement suites on each site, and the feedback is much better, but we are always thinking of new ways we can help make it a bit easier for women and their families.
“We can’t take away the sadness but we can try and make it a bit less painful and make sure they feel cared for and supported in their grief.”
Part of Clare’s role is training staff, as well as teaching students and newly qualified midwives.
But it’s the opportunity to support the families that is key to the role – and also the most challenging part.
Clare said: “Everything we do is for the families. We give them as much or as little support as they want and need.
“We help them create memories with their babies in hospital, and we’ll keep in touch with them afterwards, whether it’s for a cup of tea and a chat about everyday life over the phone, or more targeted support and signposting to counselling or other services.
“A lot of our women appreciate the chance to talk things through with someone outside their family and some like to just check in with us every now and then. We’re there as long as they need us.”
The team’s plans for the future include a dedicated labour suite for women going through baby loss, so they are away from the main labour ward.
They are also setting up a dedicated ‘Rainbow team’ to provide continuity of care for women experiencing loss or who have a history of stillbirth, early neonatal death, or repeated miscarriages.
Clare said: “Sometimes, if it’s busy, it can be draining, but then we get the feedback that we made a difference and that’s why we carry on.
“I never dreamed I’d specialise in bereavement but the more I was exposed to it as a student the more I could see that I could make a difference and it really is an incredible honour to be able to support families in this way.”