"We share a magical moment when the mother births her baby."
Manjit initially thought she'd like to specialise in children's nursing, but was inspired to change to midwifery when working on a children's ward. She's progressed to director level and, at the time of writing, was moving to Croydon Health Services NHS Trust as director of midwifery.
After I graduated with a *diploma in nursing, I became a registered nurse and worked on a children’s ward for eight months. I thought I would like to train as a paediatric nurse but I felt stressed when I could not improve some of the babies’ conditions on the ward.
One day I met a couple with a very sick child and over the months of their child’s stay, they described the wonderful experience they received during pregnancy and the excellent continuity of care provided. This inspired me to apply to the University of Luton to study the newly-launched midwifery degree, where I graduated with honours.
My first job as a registered midwife was at Guy’s and St Thomas’ where I worked for 23 years! We practised the caseload model and team midwifery which gave me the freedom to work in models of care that were based on women’s whole pathway and needs.
*You now need a degree to become a registered midwife or registered nurse.
From qualifying as a nurse and midwife, I have travelled overseas and was fortunate in improving or strengthening global midwifery in developing countries. My first experience was working with the Royal College of Midwives on a twinning project in Nepal for three weeks. We provided training to nurses and midwives in Kathmandu at a new birthing centre.
I got the travelling bug and was recruited by Rotary International Projects to work on a sponsored project called ‘Train the Trainer’ to benefit the rural community of a tribal village in the north of Mumbai, India. I was there for three years where I taught classes on reducing maternal mortality by enhancing emergency skills for staff.
In my current role, every day is different – from attending the trust’s board meeting, making the most of our capacity, space and room for our growing population in the community and antenatal clinics, to seeing mothers and babies on the ward about their maternity experience.
Clinical visibility is very important for our staff. I regularly meet staff to touch base and ensure that they are fully supported and have the right tools and equipment to carry out their roles. I strongly believe that keeping my staff happy equates to a great experience for our patients and their families.
The best bit about my role is being a part of the most memorable time of a mother’s life journey and making a difference to her life. I still get feedback from friends and colleagues on the positive impact I had in their lives as their midwife. We share a magical moment when the mother births her baby and the baby gives its first cry or wriggle.
The most common myth about midwives is that we just deliver babies, but we don’t – mothers birth their baby! What we do is support these women throughout their pregnancy journey. Every woman deserves a medal for completing this ‘Ironman’ endurance that began in pregnancy, continuing to the postnatal period and beyond.
Mothers and their partners often ask me the golden question: “Is it a boy or a girl?” Other questions include “What is the weight of the baby?” “Who does the baby look like?” You can hear the joy in their voices!
The most challenging issue for me is when a baby is removed from its mother because of safeguarding issues such as the mother needing additional support, being too unwell or social reasons.
To maintain a healthy work-life balance, I play tennis at least three times a week and frequently do 10km runs to raise money for our hospital charity. I am also learning how to sail.
My advice for those considering aiming for director level is that you should be a leader who motivates and develops individuals/teams, ensure quality improvement and have suitable management skills. I believe that successful people never stop learning, so over the years I've attended various in house and external leadership, management and clinical governance courses.
You need to be able to manage change and complexity without jeopardising your strategic vision.