'It really hit us hard to have colleagues sick': Cork midwife on working during Covid-19 pandemic

'It really hit us hard to have colleagues sick': Cork midwife on working during Covid-19 pandemic

Cork University Maternity Hospital midwife, Naomi O'Donovan, said they are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as they celebrate International Day of the Midwife 2021 today.

A CORK midwife confessed she felt powerless after a number of her colleagues contracted Covid-19 during what has been a dark time for many in the profession.

Cork University Maternity Hospital midwife, Naomi O’Donovan, said they are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel as they celebrateInternational Day of the Midwife 2021 today. This comes after a challenging year that saw Naomi and her colleagues tested in more ways than ever before.

“That state of fear was always there,” she said.

“It’s a bit like that story of the man with the sword hanging over his head because the potential for Covid was always there. It was the constancy that was wearing people down and we wondered if we would ever get a break. There is a level of tension because you know that if you get Covid there is nothing you can do. We were drawing a different kind of breath than before. Sometimes it’s as if you are holding your breath all day.”

She described the worry that comes with learning a colleague has Covid-19.

“It’s different when it’s someone that you are caring for because you go into a work zone,” she said. “In that situation the role empowers you. Although you care, you are not worried. However, it’s different if there is a colleague at home because they are isolated and suffering and there is nothing that you can do. We have had to accept more risk. While that risk is minimised, there is that little bit more for midwives than nurses in other fields because we also have the partners in the labour wards.”

Naomi explained how working relationships had to change and adapt to a pandemic.

“It really hit us hard to have colleagues sick. We are normally very touchy-feely people who would automatically go to touch someone on the shoulder but we’ve had to stand back and really be careful. I have asthma so it was something I was very conscious about. Luckily, I wasn’t affected but there were a number of colleagues that were.”

Nonetheless, she emphasised that the vaccine has finally given them hope.

“This has given me huge pause for thought. Getting the vaccine was the light at the end of the tunnel. It has given us a little bit of hope.”

She said that staffing levels have always been an issue for midwives.

“On a global level there is a huge shortage of midwives. Being a midwife is a specialist nursing role so you can’t rope in a nurse from another department. That’s not how it works. We have to be so careful in terms of our staffing levels and protective of ourselves. A number of colleagues have been very sick with Covid so that fear is very real for us.”

According to Naomi, the pandemic added considerably to workloads.

“Mothers have nobody to watch their baby while they used the bathroom or shower so this also put a lot of pressure on staff and new mothers.”

“Although standards and practise will change people are always going to be giving birth even through a pandemic.

"A woman might forget their midwife’s name but they will always remember how they made them feel. 

"Globally, midwives are making a huge difference but sometimes they get forgotten about on this side of the world. In some parts of the world they are saving lives so have a profound effect. However, midwives here are still at the heart and soul of keeping things normal.”

She lauded the efforts of new mothers for contributing to keeping them safe.

“The women kept us safe and we are all so grateful for the precautions they took from mask-wearing to working from home.”

The International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) has organised this year’s International Day of the Midwife (IDM) around the theme of “Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives.”

This year will see the global midwife community join forces to advocate for investment in quality midwifery care around the world. It is hoped that sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health can be improved in the process.

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