On Thursday, 3 November 2022, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) hosted a ‘Midwifery Going Forward’ event in Munster Technological University (MTU), Tralee.
Leading experts in midwifery from the Kerry, Cork and wider Munster region joined together to discuss key developments in the profession.
Denise Lawlor, NMBI Midwifery Committee Chair; Essene Cassidy, NMBI President; Sheila McClelland, NMBI CEO; and Dawn Johnston, NMBI Director of Midwifery.
Opening the event, President of NMBI, Essene Cassidy thanked MTU for hosting the event and looked forward for an engaging discussion on the future of midwifery in Ireland.
The first speaker was Professor Patricia Leahy-Warren, Professor in Maternal and Infant Health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University College Cork (UCC). Professor Leahy-Warren spoke about how breastfeeding is both a public health issue and a woman’s choice. She outlined how it is a policy issue; but that there is evidence to support it, citing the sustainable development goals from the Central Statistics Office and Practice Enhancement for Exclusive Breastfeeding (PEEB) network and work based on Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing and Goal 4 – Quality Education.
Dr Ray Healy, NMBI’s Director of Registration, presented on the midwifery demographics as evident in the NMBI State of the Register 2022 report. As of 1 June 2022, there were 9,661 registered midwives in Ireland, with 4,561 currently practising, and 3,850 in patient-facing roles. Dr Healy explained how the number of practising midwives has increased; however, there are approximately 2,500 midwives maintaining their registration even though they are not in the country. Further trends in the data show that there are practising midwives across every county in Ireland and that the majority of midwives maintain their expertise in patient-facing roles as they get older up to the age of 55.
The format for the afternoon’s discussion involved two panels.
The first panel was on the Evolving Role of the Midwife, chaired by Dr Rhona O’Connell, Midwifery Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC. She was joined by Katie Bourke, Director of Midwifery at Cork University Maternity Hospital; Sandra O’Connor, Director of Midwifery at University Hospital Kerry (UHK); Joann Malik, RAMP in UHK; Louise Chawke, a CNM2 Perinatal Mental Health Specialist; Nicola O’Brien, a recently qualified midwife working in UHK; and Kirsty Hawthorn, a self-employed Community Midwife.
Kirsty Hawthorn, Joann MalikJoann Malik, Louise Chawke, Dr Rhona O'Connell, Katie Bourke, Nicola O'Brien and Sandra O'Connor.
The panelists discussed how they became a midwife and their influences in the field, with a variety of experiences shared. Katie Bourke discussed how her mother was her main influence as a nurse and midwife in joining the profession, while Sandra O’Connor said she always had an interest in women’s health and in leadership. The panel also discussed the importance of celebrating the wins and supporting each other in their practice. The different opportunities to specialise in the profession were detailed and Joann Malik shared how Sandra encouraged her to take up an Advanced Midwife Practitioner (AMP) role. The opportunities for self-employed midwives to integrate working between the community and the hospital were highlighted by Kirsty Hawthorn, as she explained how this allowed her to follow a woman through her pregnancy journey to delivery.
The second panel was on Breastfeeding: Getting it over the line and was chaired by Dawn Johnston, Director of Midwifery at NMBI. Panelists were Louise Galvin, recent mum, sportswoman and Physiotherapist; Laura McHugh, National Infant Feeding Coordinator with the HSE; and Mairead O’Sullivan, Infant Feeding Coordinator at UHK.
Sheila McClelland, NMBI CEO; Laura McHugh, National Infant Feeding Coordinator; Mairead O'Sullivan, Infant Feeding Coordinator at UHK; Louise Galvin and son Florian; Dawn Johnston, NMBI Director of Midwifery; and Essene Cassidy, NMBI President.
Louise Galvin outlined her experiences with breastfeeding her son and the supports she received from midwives, while also balancing a return to sports. The need for information to support decision-making for parents was highlighted. Mairead O’Sullivan discussed her passion for supporting women to breastfeed and how she set up an antenatal feeding class to encourage and support mothers in Kerry, before taking on a role as Lactation Consultant in UHK. Laura McHugh highlighted that we need all mothers, regardless of where they live, to have access to the same services and supports. She also outlined the need for caution when interpreting statistics on breastfeeding rates and to ensure we are always comparing like with like.
Denise Lawlor, Chair of the NMBI Midwives Committee, summarised the event’s conversations, drawing on key takeaways from each speaker.
Closing the event, NMBI CEO, Sheila McClelland discussed how the organisation’s new strategy for 2023-2025 aims to address the issues facing midwifery, including in ensuring applicants are registered to practise as quickly as possible and making information available to inform service planning.
Sheila thanked all those who had attended the event and expressed the gratitude of NMBI to MTU for hosting the discussion and to all those who had taken part.