Role: Midwife Sister
Company: Downe Midwifery Led Unit
Track Record: Teresa McDowell was instrumental in shaping Downe Midwifery Led Unit, the first stand alone midwife led unit to be opened in Ireland
What does your role involve?
My role as a team leader is multifaceted. I am responsible for managing a team of midwives and health care assistants in the community, antenatal hospital clinics and midwifery led setting in Downpatrick.
As part of the team, I work in the community providing both antenatal and postnatal care to the women of the Newcastle, Castlewellan and Dundrum area.
We liaise closely with the general practitioners, health visitors, physiotherapists, social services and all maternity units. We also provide routine postnatal care for mothers and baby’s in the mothers own home to all new mothers and babies after discharge from hospital.
My job also involves attending the local breastfeeding support group and preparing for and attending case conferences or reviews on women who have social work input.
We liaise and have good relations with all of the other maternity and neo natal units in Northern Ireland and can discuss with paediatricians any concerns we have and have a direct referral system to the Ulster Maternity and Gynae Department.
I am also a supervisor of midwives and cover on-call 24:7 one week in six.
How did you get into the position in the first place?
Before applying for a team leader’s post I was a midwife in Downpatrick working on night duty. When the job was advertised I decided it would be a good opportunity for me personally to be influential and instrumental in developing the service we now have.
Did you always want to work in this sector in some capacity?
From as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a midwife. The word midwife means to be ‘with woman’. I never had any great desire to provide just one aspect of midwifery care or work with high risk women or in a high risk unit. I always felt that I wanted to provide the full package of care for women in my care from pre-conception through pregnancy and birth to the postnatal period.
What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?
I trained as a nurse firstly and staffed as a staff nurse for a couple of years as was customary back in the day. I had applied for midwifery training when I had completed my obstetric training during my general training. I never actually wanted to be a nurse but that was the way it had to be then.
Midwifery is a profession which requires life long learning, training and development and updating. Some years ago now I completed a diploma in midwifery studies and then went on to do a Bsc in midwifery studies.
It is vitally important to maintain my knowledge and skills, to ensure I am a safe practitioner. I am an experienced midwife and Team Leader and have worked as a midwife in Downpatrick Maternity now for 18 years, a team leader for 10 of those.
The reason I chose to work in Downpatrick is that I felt it would give me the opportunity to provide the full remit of care for women in the locality. We have always been under threat of closure and I think over the years any modules or training I did was to prepare me for the service we now provide.
What is your organisation’s role in the local community?
My organisation’s is to provide good quality midwifery care close to home to the women of Down, enabling them to access the full range of care on their door step.
Naturally we encourage all low risk women to have their care and birth with ourselves but for whatever reason they choose not to we can still provide their antenatal and postnatal care. For the higher risk woman who choose to birth in the UHM we provide shared care between ourselves (midwives) and the Ulster Hospital Consultant ante-natally and postnatal care.
What sort of personality and qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
As a team leader you need to be friendly, approachable, confident, competent and knowledgeable. You need to have the trust of your team and be supportive. You need to be a good listener, flexible, patient, understanding and a giver. You need to have passion and drive and be adaptable to change.
You need to lead by example and have the ability to give direction and guidance. You need to be a key player in the team and have the ability to adapt to change and bring the team along with you.
What are the biggest rewards of the job, and the biggest challenges?
The biggest reward is actually working in the First Stand Alone Midwifery Led Unit in Northern Ireland and knowing that I was instrumental in making it all happen.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
You’re never too old to learn.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work (Aristotle)
What advice would you give someone who wanted to do the same job?
Go for it. If you like a challenge, are dedicated, hardworking and want to be truly autonomous you’ll succeed.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
Spending time with friends and family; reading; power walking; music; travel; Zumba dancing and boxersize