I am Jaki, Director, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Scotland and formerly Head of Midwifery in Argyll and Bute and Professional Midwifery Advisor to the Scottish Government.
I have always had an interest in women’s health and women having control over their own bodies. I lead by building networks, relationships and connections that ensure no midwife is isolated and every midwife can feel confident in providing the best care.
I advocate for midwives so they can advocate for women.
This means the midwifery service across remote and rural Scotland is collaborative and supportive, providing professional, holistic care for Mothers and babies.
When I have been with women giving birth and they feel absolutely in control of their choice and their experience and don’t doubt themselves, it’s a very different space than you very often get an opportunity to see.
And I believe every woman should have that opportunity, and every midwife should understand what that relationship feels like.
A positive birth experience goes with you for life. And it’s not about everything always being ‘normal’ or perfect. It’s actually about feeling in control, and about being part of something and having a voice, rather than things happening to you.
That is really key to why I do it.
For me, it’s about being able to support the development of the career structure for midwives.
It’s looking at all the things to do with the profession and the development of the profession, and ensuring that government have appropriate and up-to-date advice on midwifery.
We have networks within each team, across teams, and also across Scotland, so that it’s no longer about being in one building somewhere. It’s about being virtually connected. It crosses boundaries, it crosses borders.
There’s something about working in away like this, you’re not isolated in practice.
Seeing midwives find solutions, seeing midwives being able to see what’s possible, finding the solutions to something and looking at what can be done. That’s the culture that we have here.
You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to give people the space to find the answers. And that is really satisfying.
It’s about making sure there are so many connections that even if one breaks down, there are other ways that people are connected in. And that means that you know that there’s a consistent level of midwifery care being provided, but that it’s individualised to that woman.
Everything’s about relationships.
One of the most important things is that if there is a problem with a woman or her newborn baby we have really good, effective systems set up to make sure the woman is in the right place for the baby to be born.
Our relationship with ScotSTAR, the paediatic intensive care transport service, is invaluable. We train together, we have mutual respect and good communication, and if we have a situation we know that we’re talking to people who understand where we’re working, what equipment we have, and are also able, on screen, to observe that baby alongside us.
It has revolutionised the way we can provide care in a remote rural area.
A lot of what we do here as midwives has equal application elsewhere, because it can take as long to travel across London as it can to travel from one part of a rural area to another. So if we apply the way that we work here to other settings, it increases the possibilities of how you can provide care close to home, in a way that’s safe, effective and professional.
I’d say my greatest achievement was seeing my grandson being born at home, 10 miles away from here. I wasn’t there as a midwife, but what was really wonderful was to see the impact the freedom to choose had on my daughter-in-law, on my son, and the lasting impact it had on them being parents and feeling that they had their choices respected.
I was hugely proud. As a midwife, what a pleasure to see your grandchild being born in their own community, and recognise that the way we work here made that possible.
There’s something about being a midwife within a community, where you’re part of that community, that makes you very much want to provide what the community needs.
I would hope that the way that we work here becomes normal and becomes the way other midwives can enjoy working.
Where they can work to the full scope of the profession and provide the care they want to provide in their own context and in their own environments.
My former government advisory role was to look at the professional role of a midwife, as well as to guide the national implementation of the relationship-based care approach we have here.
Care that can be provided close to home, with good networks and hubs you can access locally.
It probably was sort of unusual that I was the midwifery advisor to the Scottish government and I come from a remote and rural setting.
But actually, it’s because of the remote and rural setting that I’ve had opportunities to develop. In remote and rural, there isn’t space for people not to innovate and develop.