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Siobhan Canny is a Midwife working in Galway Regional Hospital. After her Leaving Certificate she completed a Certificate in Nursing, a Higher Diploma in Midwifery, and a BA in Midwifery. Her commitment to the profession is thorough, and she continues to upskill within the area.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
I sat the Leaving Certificate in 1993. The science subjects I had selected gave a strong foundation for preparing me for my Nurse training. I was fortunate following my Leaving Certificate to get a summer position in my local hospital and had my first opportunity to experience hospital life.
I undertook a three year Nurse training programme and worked after my training for 3 years as a Staff Nurse on a Gynaecology Ward where I developed a keen interest in Women's Health. From this experience and from completing additional specialist training I decided to work in the area of pregnancy and to train as a Midwife. This involved an additional 2 years training.
Since qualifying as a midwife I have had the opportunity to work abroad and to be exposed to a multitude of other cultures. Being a Midwife has allowed me to have experiences both personally and professionally which I would otherwise not have had; I have met so many interesting people through my job.
As part of my professional development in midwifery I have completed several educational courses from a Professional, Management and Clinical perspective. I have been successful in being promoted and currently hold the post of Senior Midwife on the Labour ward in Galway University Hospital.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
I have been lucky professionally and in life in general as I have had the opportunity to be influenced by some exceptional individuals. I come from a large family who have a background in health care. My parents have a very strong work ethic and this is something that they have encouraged in me and has served me well in life.
The decision to train to be a Nurse was influenced by my school guidance counsellor who felt that my practical and empathic nature would make me suitable for this role. I have always enjoyed being with and working with people so it made sense to me to pursue this as a career.
When I decided to move into Midwifery I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a Midwife in the hospital I was working in and she was able to talk me through what I could expect from Midwifery as a career. I found this extremely usefull as it helped dispell some of the myths and mysteries I had created around the job.
How did you go about getting your current job?
I have been working as a Midwife for 7 years, for 3 of these I was a Midwifery sister. At the time I was working outside of Ireland and was keen to move back home.
I found my current job advertised on the internet site careersinhealth.ie but had also been looking in the National Press and in professional journals. I applied on line which was easy and convenient for me, and was called for interview. I was interviewed by senior hospital staff on aspects of my professional experience and my education to date.
Following the interview I was advised I had been successful by a letter a week later. I had to complete a medical and go through the Garda vetting procedure prior to taking up my position.
Describe a typical day?
I generally have an early start with the shift patterns on days starting at 7.30am. At the beginning of a shift we are told by the night team what is happening on the ward at this time, for example: What women are on the ward, at what stage of pregnancy or labour they are at and any problems the women are experiencing.
We try to have one midwife per woman when they are in labour so we can support them and monitor their own and their baby's wellbeing. This gives us a good opportunity to get to know the woman and allows you to work well in labour with them.
Midwives perform all of the care for women in low risk normal uncomplicated labour and assist the medical staff with the women who have pregnancy complications. As well as the women in labour we have some women who are having Caesarean section to have their babies. We also attend these deliveries and assist the mothers and fathers with the immediate care of the new born.
The time scale on the labour ward is a little unpredictable and often we have several labour and deliveries ongoing at the same time which can be a challenge.
Like any job there are pressures, but working with a team of people, Midwives, Doctors and families who are all focused on a getting a good outcome makes the job very rewarding.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Midwives are responsible for the care and support of normal low risk pregnancies from conception to following delivery. We work with G.P and Obstetricians in caring for women who have complicated pregnancies.
Midwives on the labour ward deliver all the babies that are born by normal vaginal delivery and we assist the doctors in the medical births like instrumental deliveries and Caesarean Sections.
I work on the labour ward and as well as looking after the women we provide education and supervision to the midwifery and medical students in GUH. We also work on developing the current service to benefit women in the ward and the hospital staff.
A large part of my job is the management and support of the midwives on the labour ward for example with organising their study leave, annual leave, managing HR issues and resource management.
What are the main challenges?
There are always challenges in providing health care. Shortages and cut backs are the norm. Sometimes you feel there is more work to be done than there is time and that when one thing starts to go wrong everything goes wrong!
This is why being part of a team is so important and working well in the team is key to its success. I think the main challenge is to stay positive and to remind yourself and others why we are here - that it is for the women and their families. This encourages you to keep going and to look forward to the next birth and the happiness this brings to a family.
It is always cool to deliver someones baby and be part of this experience with them. I am always surprised that this never gets old or boring.
I also enjoy working as part of a team and the continual new experiences and challenges you gain as part of this job. It is nice to work in a large hospital as you get to mix with lots of different people both at work and socially.
What's not so cool?
Being a Midwife comes with some serious responsibilities as your have two lives to provide care for with mum and baby. This responsibility can be a heavy weight if the pregnancy and labour are complicated and the outcomes for mum and baby are not optimal.
What makes this bearable is being able to share this with your work colleagues. Having to work shift patterns can be difficult and sometimes you have to miss a night out here and there.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
What is your education to date?
Following my Leaving Certificate I have completed several courses
I have also completed training in managing obstetric emergencies and have provided training to Midwives and Doctors on this subject. The courses I have taken have been focussed on improving my clinical knowledge and have allowed me to improve the level of care I provide to the women. It has also given me the opportunity to progress in my career as a Midwife
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The degree programme in Midwifery was a big stepping stone for me in my career. This was my first opportunity to study at degree level. I was introduced to some very academic approaches to midwifery which I was able to take on board and bring back to my work place.
The additional courses I have taken on are Managing Maternity Emergencies . These have proven very beneficial as they have given me a very clear understanding of the management of the emergency . I then teach and train staff within my unit which I enjoy and it is an additional skill I have acquired.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
The aspects of my career to date I am most proud of is my sucess in achieving my current role as the Manager of a Labour Ward in Galway University Hospital and the experience this job has provided.
I have several memories of women and their families and my role in their care. I feel that I have had contributed postively towards them and their outcomes. Women often remember the midwife with them in labour and I feel I would like to be rembered well by the women I have looked after.
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
What is your dream job?
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
I have been working as a Nurse/Midwife for 12 years. My qualifications have allowed me the opportunity to travel abroad in a working / holiday manner. I have had the opportunity to meet, work and develop friendships with people from all over the world. I currently live in Galway and enjoy an active social life and am preparing to purchase a home in the city.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
I would advise anybody wishing to pursue a career as a Midwife to focus on having science subjects in their Leaving Certificate. The basic entrance requirements are high at the moment so a good Leaving Certificate is essential (unless applying as a mature applicant).
To be accepted onto a training course you have to do an interview where they will determine whether you are suitable for the job or not. In the interview I would advise you to relax and to be yourself, answer honestly and do not be afraid to promote yourself.
The interviewers are looking for intellegent, hard working, nice people who are genuinely interested in being with women in pregnancy and labour. They are looking for students who have a basic understanding as to what this entails.
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Having some experience within a hospital setting may be valuable as you pick up experience in relation to working in a team and with the public.
Having some experience with babies would help with your confidence in managing babies. Participating in community based projects as a volunteer or as an observer may be helpful.
Experience working in groups like mother and baby groups, the La Leche League, AIMS Ireland. Also, some towns run support groups for mothers and are often looking for volunteers to assist. If you are already a nurse gaining any experience related to womens health may be benefical for getting a midwifery training place.