Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My new job: professional development officer for the Australian College of Midwives

Those of you who follow my blog may vaguely remember me saying back in August that I was moving to Canberra to take up my new role as professional development officer at the Australian College of Midwives. I have hardly said a word about my new job since because a. I have been far too busy settling into the job and getting my head around what I am supposed to be doing, and b. I have been thinking how I can continue to blog my personal opinion without compromising my professional position.....am still thinking about that one.

I am loving my new job. It is very busy and varied, and whilst I feel like I am struggling to keep up some times, I will never be able to complain of boredom. Midwifery is on the cusp of  amazing changes in Australia, and I am delighted to be part of it.

I do all sorts of things from posting links up on our Facebook page to supporting the development of position statements. My main jobs at the moment are:
  • supporting private practicing midwives;
  • supporting and developing the Australian Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative;
  • supporting our application to become a registered training organisation;
  • developing midwives' use of telehealth; 
  • supporting projects such as the up and coming education summit in February 2013, and the ACM structural review.
My hopes for the future
My goals for the next couple of years are:
  • to increase transparency and communication and collaboration amongst members of the College and the wider midwifery community;
  • to explore ways that we can support each other so that we are one integrated group of midwives, who work together to promote midwifery, as opposed to breaking off into fragmented groups;
  • to work out how I can continue to use social media in my new position;
  • and, to work out how to integrate my interests in education and research into my job. 
If you're an Australian midwife, what are your hopes for the midwifery profession over the next couple of years?


Rachel said...

Hi Sarah
I'd like to know how/if ACM is going to support midwives who want to carry on practising as they always have - for women but without medicare? We are feeling very unsupported at the moment by our professional body. Also it would be nice for the ACM to support the many IMs undergoing persecution via AHPRA initiated by hospital midwives... here's hoping.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

Sounds like a very interesting and busy job alright. Go Sarah! We miss your bubblyness. Bron

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Rachel, two great questions for me to think about, and am always happy to hear ideas for how we can progress this work with IMs.

One thing we have done is set up a Private Practising Midwives Advisery Committee, who I am working with. So if you have anything you'd like to pass by them, please let me know.

The other thing we are trying to do is collect information about the complaimnts that are made against IMs, so we know what is going on - once we have a decent body of evidence, then we can act. So...again...if you have any information that can help us, please feel free to get in touch.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Bron, loving my new job and the people I work with, but also have to say that I miss 4.04!

Anonymous said...

Hello - on the subject of increasing transparency for the ACM members, can you tell me how many members the ACM actually has, Sarah? I mean members who are PRACTISING MIDWIVES, not inclusive of students, associates, non-practising academics, etc? I think there are something like 15,000 registered midwives in Australia, around 6000 are practising midwifery - so how many are members of the ACM? Would very much appreciate your input :) cheers

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi anonymous, would really appreciate having your name...makes it easier for me to place the context of your question.

All the info about membership etc can be found in our latest annual report: http://midwives.rentsoft.biz/lib/pdf/documents/National/ACM%20Annual%20Reports/ACM%20Annual%20Report%202012.pdf

Anonymous said...

Sarah, that is very helpful, thank you. So, 1) there are fewer members than last year and 2) taking away all the students / associates / etc, there are a mere 4,041 members - so the ACM represents around 30% of all Aussie midwives? Interesting given all the rhetoric! Sorry Sarah, no name, but I'm a midwife and a member of the ACM, and very interested in the power structures going on there - I do not feel at all represented by the ACM, but maybe that's coz I work in the country in an ordinary little town, with an ordinary model of care... and country midwives will always remain second or even third class in the eyes of the elitist ACM...no power, no voice. Cheers again.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks anonymous for talking to me...as you would have seen, I am new to the ACM and getting my head around what needs to be done etc.

What would be very useful for me to know is how you see the ACM addressing these issues that you have articulated? What is the evidence for what you say? What do you actually mean? How is the ACM being elitist? What do you want the ACM to do so that you are better supported? Why do you say rural/remote members are being treated as 3rd rate?

The problem with your comment is that it does nothing to help me address your issues because it is not clear what they are. The ACM can only represent their members if they know what the members are thinking, and why they feel the way they do.

One way to get your voice heard is to become involved with your local Branch and/or national activities, such as responding to EOIs that are being sent out. Ot talk to one of the Board members. The ACM is just about to set up a Rural and Remote advisory committee, so keep an ear open...and answer the EOi when we send it out...we'd love to hear from you.

The other thing we're doing is increasing our consultancy with members and transparency, so keep an eye on all the stuff we're posting on Facebook, our e-bulletins, and the members-only part of the ACM website. I am just about to release a waterbirth position statement for feedback, so please let us know what you think about that.

If you fancy a chat, give me a bell on: 1300 360 480 Would love to hear from you :)

Rachel said...

Hi Sarah - thanks for your reply :)
I would like to know if the Privately Practising Midwifery Advisory Committee includes midwives who are not (and don't want to be) medicare eligible? I am a little reluctant to support a College who may be instrumental in putting me and the minority of midwives who work like me out of practice. I would really like confirmation that the push for medicare etc. will not result in 'cutting us free' as collateral damage in the drive for professional recognition.
I foresee a future where homebirth will require insurance, which will require eligibility status and restrict practice according to the insurer. I'm hoping there will be a place for those who opt out and for the women who specifically choose us.
The best thing the ACM has done recently is employ you... I believe you can improve their transparency and have already improved their social media 'face'.
Keep up the good work - and please keep engaging with midwives around these issues :)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely second what Rachel has said - for an English-New Zealander who is 'new' to the ACM, you are doing a great job already.

Elitist - Obsession with Models of Care, MGP. LMC type models - and dismissive and un-interested in those of us who don't work in such a model, when such local models of care have evolved pragmatically to solve local issues of distance, economics, poverty etc.

Elitist - Desperate to follow NZ's model of direct entry midwifery, excluding RN's...but don't the ACM realize that the RN/RM midwives (us) are the ones keeping birthing options open for rural women because we are generalists too??

Elitist - Believing themselves to be the 'leading voice in Australian midwifery' - what with 30% membership? Of 8 midwives in the small rural hospital where I work, I am the only member of the ACM and even I've had enough. BUT - we have a choice, and the ACN's rural nursing and midwifery faculty speaks far more for us than the ACM.

Elitist - the seemingly endless homebirth rhetoric, emails, statements, blah blah - yes it's an important human right issue, but, ACM, put just 10% of that kind of energy into proving you care about rural women, families, rural midwives - homebirth will one day be relevant to perhaps 1 or 2% of birthing women at most, rural women will continue to birth in local facilities.

Elitist - lets say 30% of this nations practising RM's are in the ACM. Of the 4100 odd members of the ACM, about 5-6 are constantly, endlessly having their voices heard. Open up any ACM publication and the same individuals are represented. Again, again, again.

Sometimes it would be good to hear from a midwife working in a GP / midwife shared care hospital in, say, rural Victoria, hear her story, coz, you know, they may be giving and offering great care but haven't given it a name yet...

The rural RN/RM has been drowned out by the ACM in a sea of discourse, a self serving academia (although there are small pockets of Joan Donley style 'lets not run away with our own beliefs too much') and a top-heavy power structure.

Who gets let down? Who doesn't have a voice?

Rural midwives caring for rural women.

Finally - to the ACM' d'you really think a 120 kg Tongan woman who has Hep C and has had 7 pregnancies from Mangere Bridge will get an LMC when she calls them up as easily as the 62kg Asian woman from Takapuna or Epsom......? Nope. The Tonga women will get 'core' care. The NZ system that the ACM is so very desperate to emulate is fraught with exclusive structures and is far from perfect.

Anyway I promise not to bother you again, Sarah, I suspect I will be something of a lone voice here :)

Keep up the great work.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi anonymous....please, keep commenting!! It's really good for me to hear different views...it is informing me and helping me do my job better. Thank you :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Rachel, thank you for your kind words.

I believe the ACM does not want to restrict homebirth practice, however, it does support the notion of "safe" practice.

As for the PPMAC, the membership of that committee is down to the people who answered the EOI and volunteered to be on it. Eligibility was not a criteria for joining...indeed, I haven't a clue who on the committee is "eligible" and who is not. If you have any thing you want the PPMAC to pursue or advise the ACM Board about, please contact the committee chair, Jane Palmer (info(at)pregnancy.com.au) or me. cheers Sarah

Rachel said...

"I believe the ACM does not want to restrict homebirth practice, however, it does support the notion of "safe" practice."
How is working for an insurance company and having medicare going to make my practice any safer? We have regulation via AHPRA. It is this notion of 'safety' that worries me. I don't want ACM to regulate me, I want them to support me (and other midwives in minority models of care)
Anyhow I'm too busy keeping my head above water and caring for women who have been dumped by their medicare midwives... or have dumped them due to the type of care offered (large throughput with minimal one-to-one care... safe?). Next year might be my last year in practice.

Sarah Stewart said...

I am really sorry to hear that you're thinking of giving up next year...I hope that isn't the case.

You're right...it isn't for the ACM to regulate practice...and isn't what the ACM wants to do. However, I think (and this is my private opinion, and not necessarily that of the ACM) that it is the job of the ACM to provide professional frameworks for practice across all areas of practice.

I keep coming back to my new mantra...the ACM is "you" not some nebulous entity that floats around the place. If you want it to represent you...exactly what you think...then you must get your feedback to the appropriate people - in your case, The Private Practicing Midwives Committee.

The other thing I would urge you is to be patient. Change to the midwifery profession (eg eligibility) have just come about. It's going to take a few years to settle and midwives to find their feet. No doubt we'll make mistakes along the way, and hopefully we'll learn from them.

The College is also moving...evolving...responding to changes. Another thing you can do that will be really helpful is give your feedback to the structural review when that goes into public consultation, which will be soon - have a look at the review information on the ACM website, members section.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the previous comments by anonymous. There are strong voices within our profession in this country and I'm not so sure they speak for many midwives. The profession is being rearranged around the concept of continuity of care/carer, of which we all support. Many of us do not wish to work this way though. Maybe ACM needs to find out why so many midwives arent members?

Sarah Stewart said...

I do agree with you, anonymous...the ACM does need to do more to engage the hospital midwives who are members....and we need to engage with the wider population who are not members. What do you think the ACM can do to engage hospital midwives...keeping in mind we cannot please all the people all the time? How can we improve our services to the wider population?

Anonymous said...

Well you've just expressed part of the problem yourself..what is a "hospital midwife"?

A lesser being than one in private practice?

A lower creature because she works in a Medical model not an MGP?

Why don't the ACM say what they really mean; such hospital midwives are obstetric nurses and not really midwives?

A word for the ACM; Inclusion. Give that a try.



Sarah Stewart said...

I apologise, anonymous...I have been hoisted in my own petard...you're right...we are all midwives where ever we work...which is what I'd like us to move toward...not hospital midwives...eligible midwives..private midwives...homebirth midwives....a midwife is a midwife is a midwife.

Let me ask again: How can the ACM support midwives who work in hospitals?