Former and student midwives help out during coronavirus outbreak

Lindsey McNamara and Liz Archibald
Lindsey McNamara, left, and Liz Archibald

Published on 27 May 2020

A small army of former and student midwives is helping ensure mums and babies get the best care during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dozens have stepped forward to volunteer to help out in the maternity departments at East Kent Hospitals, providing an extra pair of hands to help out.

Lindsey McNamara, Better Births Lead Midwife, is co-ordinating the volunteers at the William Harvey Hospital and said the team had been overwhelmed with offers of support.

She said: “The response has been absolutely fantastic, and it has been lovely to welcome back some familiar faces who have returned.

“But we have also had wonderful support from third-year student midwives, who have agreed to take on an extended placement with us to help care for our mums and their babies.” 

Among them is Sidney Kong, a third-year student midwife, due to qualify in August.

She said: “There was a tiny part of me that was worried about my partner and my nine-year-old stepson but I spoke to my previous mentor to find out about the PPE and the safety and precautionary measures the Trust had put in place.

“She put my mind at rest so I knew I wanted to help – after all, if I had already qualified I would already be there working. 

“I felt safe, protected and looked after on my first shift and I was able to focus on the job and put everything else outside out of my mind.”

Rebecca Buckingham is also a third-year student midwife. 

She said: “I did agonise over the decision but I felt a professional duty to help out and I wanted to do my bit.

“I am always nervous on the first shift of any placement but I was more nervous because I didn’t know how the situation would affect how we care for the woman, or really what I would be walking into. 

“But it disappeared as soon as I arrived. I don’t feel at risk in the slightest, we have had enough PPE and I feel very safe.”

Rebecca has completed five shifts and is looking forward to more. 

She said: “The support has always been there and the team have been great. We are an extra pair of hands and I think they appreciate that.

“For the women we look after, I think we have a shared experience. It can be difficult because so much of midwifery relies on body language and it is strange to realise we are smiling but they can’t see that. 

“But we are all in it together and they appreciate that.”

Sara Andrews worked in maternity and the neonatal unit until a year ago, when she left to train as a health visitor. 

She said: “I wanted to come back and help support my colleagues.

“Everyone has been so supportive and I’ve found it all came flooding back.

“The first shift was really daunting, and I barely slept the night before, but Lindsey really reassured me and the shift was well-staffed so I was able to give good care.” 

For her first shift back, Sara cared for a woman who gave birth without any loved ones present as her partner was at home looking after their other children.

She said: “Most of the people on that day were colleagues I had worked with in the past so that helped. 

“Some things have changed but I’m always honest if I’m not sure and everyone understands and they are always happy to help.

“It has given me such a buzz to be able to help colleagues and patients. There may be hard shifts but the job satisfaction is always there and you know you are making a difference.” 

Liz Archibald worked as a midwife before retiring, and although her midwifery registration lapsed she kept up her nursing registration and has been doing NHS Professionals shifts with East Kent Hospitals research team.

It means she has been able to help out in the maternity department as a nurse, rather than a midwife, helping to care for women who have had a caesarean section, or to support them with breastfeedin

She said: “Although I can’t deliver babies or do any midwife-specific jobs, there is a lot I can do. 

“I was aware of the pressures on the staff throughout the Trust and because all of the research projects were halted apart from COVID-related studies, the research team didn’t need any additional help so it freed me up to help elsewhere.

“I felt my experience would be most useful in maternity and I felt it was my duty to help out.” 

Although Liz had most recently worked as a community midwife, colleagues were on hand to support her on the wards as she found her feet.

She said: “It has been a challenge but it is lovely to have that contact with women and to be able to support them and their babies. 

“It is hard for mums at the moment and some of them can be quite anxious but I think it can also be a very special time.

“Going home with your baby and not having to worry about visitors and all the stress that can bring means it is a very intimate time when you have the chance to really get to know your baby.”