We spent the whole time reminiscing about the good old days (which to my horror were 28 years ago!) which got me reflecting on the qualities that midwives such as Kate displayed all those years ago, and why they made such an impact on me.
As a result of my reflections I have come up with my five top attributes that make a great midwifery mentor.
It seemed to me that there wasn't much Kate didn't know, which made her an incredible resource for me. This in turn made me feel confident in my own practice because I always knew she'd be able to point me in the right direction if I got a little lost.
It goes without saying that a midwife can be the most knowledgeable person in the world, but if she is scary and unapproachable, then a student or new midwife will find it too stressful to talk to her. I remember a number of midwives like that...they made no contribution to my growth as a midwife other than me determining that I didn't want to be like them.
3. Hands off
By this, I mean that a great mentor will allow you to do your thing...to grow and develop...but keep a watchful eye and step in if you're about to make a horrible mistake. There's nothing worse than a midwife who doesn't trust you. That only makes you lose confidence, which in turn impacts on your practice.
4. Secure in the midwifery role
The thing that really stands out about Kate and the other midwives like her was that they were secure in their role as midwives. They worked really well in the team with obstetricians and paediatricians but they knew their stuff and were very clear about midwives' work. They were strong and did not tolerate unnecessary medical intervention. But they were also expert in recognising when things were abnormal and knew exactly when it was appropriate to refer to specialists. This was such good modelling which resulted in me being very sure what a midwife is and does.
5. Highly skilled
I don't suppose there is too much difference between knowledgeable and skilled, but what I am thinking of here was the way that Kate could handle more complex situations or an emergency. I never felt nervous that things would get out of hand. And Kate, and her colleagues, always appeared cool, calm and collected. Of course, I know that probably wasn't the case but a junior member of staff, all I could see was complete professionalism even in the most stressful circumstances.
It was delightful seeing Kate again and she certainly brought back some fabulous memories. I hope to go back to Odstock for a visit when I am in the UK in May, and catch up with some of those wonderful women I worked with all those years ago. I know I have never achieved their level of clinical skills but I hope a student midwife remembers me fondly as being someone who made a difference to her practice.
Do you have a mentor you remember from years ago? What do you remember about him or her? If you are a student midwife, what attributes do you want the midwives you work with to display?