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'In one day I might care for a very ill woman and help resuscitate a baby - and there's no respect'

Midwives didn’t pick the job for the money, but they want their skills to get the same recognition as other healthcare professionals, Maeve Gaynor writes.

I’M A STAFF midwife, qualified now over six years with an additional qualification in prescribing.

Before becoming a midwife, I worked for twelve years in the private sector, in telecommunications technology. They’re both interesting and important jobs.

However, the differences in salary would suggest they are valued very differently.

My salary as a midwife is now 55% of the salary I had when I left the private sector over ten years ago. When I reach the maximum midwife salary (after 13 years’ experience), I will be making 67% of what I was making 17 years previously in the private sector.

Needless to say, I didn’t change career because my main interest is money. However, I do not believe that my new profession is one that should be viewed as a vocation requiring minimal payment.

Midwifery is a professional role which requires intensive education and training. It also requires extensive knowledge, intelligence, kindness, compassion, speed, alertness and the ability to stay calm in a crisis.

Midwifery is far from being an unskilled job, and as a skilled profession it warrants a competitive salary.

When I go into work, I never know what my shift will bring. In one work day I might have to care for women in labour or prepare my patients for, and then assist in, theatre; I might have to deal with emergencies or participate in resuscitation of a baby; I might even have to care for very ill women in a high-dependency setting.

I am qualified, and may be called on, to take bloods, write prescriptions, or administer medications. Or I might be needed to dress and feed babies, make tea and toast, wash floors, answer phones, push beds or complete some of the endless documentation that comes with the job.

I might be called on to do any of these vital skilled jobs in a day, knowing that everything I do during that day is important. Equally I might spend time talking to, educating and reassuring women and their families during one of the most exciting and anxious times of their lives, which I consider to be the most important task of all.

Whatever tasks I take on in a day, I know that I am doing vital work that I have been trained to carry out in a safe way. I also know that my patients recognise my skills and experience, and that they depend on my level of training and my professionalism to keep them safe.

What I wonder at the end of that day, when I have applied so many skills and so much knowledge, is why is my job is considered of less value than that of other healthcare professionals who have the same entry requirements?

I love my job, and I knew what I was getting into when I entered midwifery. I’m not asking for my previous private sector pay, and I don’t believe any of my colleagues got into their profession because they are motivated by money.

Nor am I asking that we receive some kind of special treatment. I am simply asking that the skills I bring to work every day are considered to be equal to the skills of any other healthcare professional; I am asking that my role be considered as important, and that the responsibility I bear for my patients and their families is recognised.

I am simply asking for respect for my profession of midwifery.

Maeve Gaynor has been a midwife in the public health service for the last six years. 

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