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The pregnant midwife: A personal reflection on having a baby as a midwife

I have always had a passion for matters around pregnancy, birth and babies. For years I have enjoyed being a midwife, clinically in research and in teaching. My passion started at around 4 years old when my brother was born. Mesmerized by a growing belly and the fact that another human was coming in to the world, I read my mother’s antenatal books from cover to cover. Having just experienced the birth of my own baby, I felt compelled to write my own reflections and experiences down….

Please note: For personal reasons I would request that close family members do not read any further.

*Long post alert*

What happens when the midwife has a baby? We are people just like any other having a baby…right?…probably. Did I know too much?…Did that affect my choices? did I have a better choice and/or experience because I had ‘insider knowledge’?… One thing is certain. Having a baby as a midwife was unique for me.

The stick turned blue

Yes, our little Autumn baby was planned….and thankfully, we had no trouble conceiving our little darling, who was due to arrive conveniently after I had  been awarded my PhD. But my period being late and the pregnancy tests showing up negative confused me. This was my first experience of feeling as though ‘I should have known better’! … Of course, though I knew that all I was looking for was a little Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the cheap sticks I had bought clearly were not sensitive enough to detect it…it took a friend to prompt me to spend a bit of extra cash on the test. Of course a fancy pants digital stick did the trick….Silly me. The midwife should have known better (was one of my first thoughts… and a recurrent theme throughout my pregnancy)! The pressure was on!

Of course when the stick did officially ‘turn blue’ my heart jumped into my mouth, knowing that this was an ‘oh sh*t’ moment. No take backsies. Yet, I have no idea why I panicked …it was planned after all! Perhaps it was because..

  1. My parents would know for sure that I was sexually active (ridiculous I know…especially as we have been together 18 years)!
  2. I really would need to finish my PhD in time
  3. Life was about to change for ever
  4. I think this pregnancy is a good thing (probably)

My unicorn was on her way..

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Choosing my care givers

Unlike many women who my just meet the nearest or most convenient midwife. I had the luxury of knowing a myriad of great midwives who could provide great care for me and my baby. I also had the luxury of knowing how and who to ask directly for what I wanted. I felt spoilt. This felt like a luxury that many women don’t have…but it was also a perfectly reasonable thing to be able to do. I was able to chose a midwife who I knew was ‘on the same page’… and who would care for me continuously throughout…Do all women get this opportunity?

Pregnancy symptoms

For years I have been caring for women with ligament pain, pelvic pain, odd sensations ad physical stresses and strains. Being pregnant myself meant that I could finally feel what I had been describing… ‘Ahh…that’s what hey mean by feeling a ‘twang”

One great benefit of being a pregnant midwife is also knowing what symptoms to worry about and what symptoms not to worry about. I imagine that this may have enabled me to experience somewhat less worry than others experiencing such things for the first time….In the beginning anyway!

To tell or not to tell…that is the question

Other than the midwives I knew, there were other care givers throughout my pregnancy who were meeting me for the first time. They all began with the usual spiel about risks/benefits/routine and procedure. The question is (or was).. do I let them go on talking like I know nothing.. or do I let them know that I am a midwife who is used to spouting this spiel myself.

In not telling them, I felt like a fraud.. Like I was making a fool of them… But in telling them of my profession, I felt as though I would be giving up my status as a ‘regular’ maternity service user. My cover would essentially be blown.

A desire for honesty got the better of me. I told all new care givers that I was a midwife. The following happened:

  1. Clinicians dropped any facade of being ‘ultra professional’ – They became more friendly… like we were ‘on the same team’.
  2. I was told frequently ‘Well you know all of this already so I won’t repeat it’

As they did this, I felt a mix of emotions. On the one hand…I felt truly part of the team…a sense of power and autonomy…On the other hand… I felt like I no longer had the safety net of being ‘nurtured’ through my pregnancy. Was I missing out?..I’m not sure. But I was no longer treated as a ‘regular pregnant woman’.

Choosing my own care pathways

In my experience as a midwife, I have seen how some professionals can dismiss the thoughts, feelings and desires of women wanting to make decisions in relation to their own care pathways. For more on this, please see Michelle Quashie @QuashieMichelle 

As such, I sometimes had to fight hard to make sure that the women in my care got what they wanted. I was expecting to have the same fight.

However, I found that once people realised that I was a midwife, they were more willing to trust that my own decisions were informed decisions. They seemed less intent on trying to persuade me one way or another. They seemed to respect and accept my choice more than I had seen some maternity staff respect the choices of other women.

For me this highlighted issues around respecting women’s choice. When do we feel that women can make their own choices without question?…and when do women’s choices cause clinicians concern?….

Whatever the opinion of others… I, as a midwife could seemingly make any choice I wanted with ease…. Is this the same for all? I think not.

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Birth choices

I have actually known what my own birth choice would be for a long time now. My main fear was that my choice would be made unavailable to me. Pre-conceptually I had consulted the obstetric team to discuss my birth choices…Would they be facilitated? because if not…did I really want to get pregnant in the first place?… the answer was ‘Let’s wait and see once you get pregnant’…Damn. I was really looking for a signed deal beforehand.

Once I became pregnant of course, they held all of the cards. I was pregnant…. trapped… The baby had to come out somehow, but I was beholden to them.. as they were the ones who would decide whether or not to facilitate my choice. This also altered the power balance and really made me feel vulnerable… at the mercy of those with the power to say yes or no. It was not a nice place to be.

My midwife, and my consultant midwife were 100% supportive of my decision, but they were not in a position to sign on the dotted line. I wanted a beautiful planned cesarean section. Something which goes against the grain for some.

When it came to meeting the consultant team, I was nervous about what they would ‘allow’. Now… I hate the word ‘allow‘ in maternity services, but this is how it felt. I was asking permission to have this… asking them to facilitate this. They had the power to say no. As a midwife, I believe I knew the right things to say to maximize my chances of them agreeing to my birth choice. I also had all of the up to date guidelines and research to back up my arguments should I need them. I was still nervously holding my breath.

There was some resistance, I had some extra appointments and some hoops to jump through, but with some firm words and some strong midwifery back up, I was able to get my birth choice ‘agreed’ or ‘allowed’.  Though the clinical reasons for my birth choice are too complex to explain here, it felt as though my decision making was not so trusted by other professionals in this case. I also had to repeatedly sit and listen to the list of risks involved, and be repeatedly asked if I had wanted to change my mind. Would this be the case if I had chosen a vaginal birth?

The sense of relief was immense…I could finally start to look forward to the birth and enjoy my pregnancy!

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Though this relief could have come much earlier for me… having the obstetric team on board pre-conceptually would have made my experience so much better!

What I really wanted to do was have my birth choice go unquestioned. I wanted to know all of the facts and then be trusted to make my own decision. Doesn’t every person want this?…

A “good birth” goes beyond having a healthy baby…

But I felt as though I may be denied my choice if it did not conform with what the health professional believed was the ‘right’ decision… This was utterly terrifying. The consequences of my choice being denied would literally mean that I would have less control over what would happen to my body. This was a horrifying thought. I would literally be forced to have a vaginal birth against my will. This is literally how the reality  felt.

For more information around birth rights see: @birthrightsorg

These experiences in relation to birth choices got me thinking about ‘informed’ choice in maternity care…

Everyone is ever so concerned about gaining ‘informed’ consent (and rightly so)… but is it disconcerting that we forever talk about the risks of Cesarean section and rarely the benefits? Equally…do we (as healthcare professionals) inform women of the risks of a vaginal birth? or a hospital birth? Wouldn’t that be ‘true’ informed consent?

As a midwife, I have to admit that my favorite type of birth to be in attendance of is an uninterrupted home birth….they are fab!… but that is my preference as a midwife. My preference as a mother was a cesarean section, and I have to ensure that I remain objective in respect to all women’s choices regardless of these facts.

At the end of the day.. a baby is coming out of you. There are a variety of ways in which this can happen. Should there be a default or ‘preferred’ way? or is this ‘preferred’ way subjective to each and every woman? If so then we must stop talking about the ways in which we might prefer women to give birth…and instead celebrate women’s choice in pursuit of their own subjective ‘positive birth’.

See here about the myths associated with positive birth

In my case, I felt a solidarity with Helen George from Call the Midwife, who was shamed for choosing to have a cesarean section. I also identified with some of the reasons she gave for her very personal choice. Of course there are many other reasons why women may choose a cesarean section. Some have been explored in the following paper:

Why do women request an elective cesarean delivery for non-medical reasons? A systematic review of the qualitative literature

From my perspective…the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of one’s birth choices are too subjective to ever cast judgment upon.

Challenging poor practice

The care I received from the English maternity services in my area was fantastic….For the most part. Unfortunately I did encounter one incidence of poor practice. Sadly this episode warranted escalation.

As a midwife, I know my duty is to take further action (escalate) mistakes in practice where appropriate. However, as a mother, I was nervous about escalating the poor practice of someone whom I relied on for my care (and to facilitate my birth choices). Would they take revenge? would I loose my place of birth? or would my birth choices be taken from me?…It was a very vulnerable position to be in.

“After all…If you complain to the chef..they may spit in your food.”

Thankfully, with the support of my midwife, I am now working with the General Medical Council (GMC) to ensure that other mothers and babies can be protected from the same actions being repeated.

Aside from this… as a midwife, I feel highly privileged that I was able to spot this poor practice and call it out. Another pregnant woman (non-midwife) may not have spotted this poor practice, and been put at risk unknowingly. This highlights how vulnerable women may be, as they trust us all with their (and their babies) lives. Here the role of the midwife as an advocate becomes even more important for those who cannot always safeguard their own care.

Patient & Public Involvement in research

INVOLVE briefings state that there is an important distinction to be made between the perspectives of the public and the perspectives of people who have a professional role in health and social care services. As midwives are not considered to be patients under this guidance, I have felt unable to participate in Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) activities during my pregnancy. This was difficult, as I would have loved to have participated in PPI whilst pregnant in order to contribute to the improvement of maternity services from a user perspective. This issue is worthy of further discussion… after all, health professionals can be ‘patients’ too right?

Antenatal education

My husband is surely sick of my chums and I always talking pregnancy and birth…and of course passion for the profession can get a little sickly for some. So, I wanted the father of my baby to hear what I already knew from someone other than me. I didn’t want him to rely on me for information…after all, I may come across as a know it all rather than an equal partner in his parenting journey. So we went to NCT classes.

The classes were great and the information was sound….Yet, as a midwife… I could feel myself wanting to ‘approve’ of the information given out to the group.

During the challenges set out for us as a group, I was anxious. What if I got a question wrong? or stuck an anatomy sticker in the wrong place?

oh the shame!

Thankfully, I made no mistakes and my midwifery knowledge held strong. Yet again, I felt compelled to disclose my profession to the group. Not to do so felt dishonest somehow, like I was tricking them into thinking I was new to pregnancy and birth from all perspectives…and not just from a parental one. As such, I was relied upon at times for the lived experience of maternity services. People were also generally glad to have me on their ‘team’ during group challenges.

At the end of the course, I think my husband was glad to learn from someone perhaps more objective than myself. I also think that hearing the facts from another birth educator strengthened my husbands faith in what I had been saying all along…For example.. he now trusts that it is indeed OK to have a glass of wine whilst breastfeeding (Very important)!

And just like any other mum of course… I needed to meet other people sharing the same journey as I was.

And so little ‘Loveday Alice Pezaro’ came into the world. I had the perfect ‘positive’ birth (for me).. The breastfeeding is going wonderfully…and we are now knee deep in baby sensory groups and Costa Coffee chats. This experience from the other side of the fence has provided me with more empathy for women and more passion for womens rights in childbirth. The journey was less scary than I thought it might be. But…………………

What if I can’t breastfeed?

This was another real fear for me…having supported so many other women to breastfeed… what if I couldn’t do it myself? I mean… if the midwife can’t do it…What hope is there? 😮😨😩

These types of fears and anxieties resonate with other midwives who find themselves becoming mothers…In fact, the very pertinent research of my friend and mentor Dr. Sarah Church demonstrates how;

“a reliance on professional knowledge may create opportunities for choice and increased autonomy in some situations, although the need for intervention during childbirth, for example, may challenge the degree of autonomy exercised by midwives and the choices available to them. As knowledgeable experts, midwives demonstrate a very different understanding of risk and safety in relation to their own experiences of childbirth. Professional knowledge may increase their anxieties which may not be addressed appropriately by caregivers due to their professional status. The use of knowledge in this way highlights potential conflict between their position as midwives and their experience as mothers, illustrating that midwives’ ability to exercise agency and autonomy in relation to their pregnancy and childbirth experiences is potentially problematic.”

Final thoughts and reflections

  • Being pregnant as a midwife increased both my anxieties and my autonomy.
  • My professional knowledge impacted significantly upon my own perceptions around risk and safety in maternity
  • As a midwife I knew how to best ‘get’ my birth choices.
  • I felt vulnerable at times, especially in calling out poor practice.
  • I felt as though I was treated differently because of my professional background
  • The pressure to ‘get it right’ was always on.

In conclusion, the whole experience of childbearing was much better than I thought it would ever be. I feared much more than I needed to, and in retrospect, I had a wonderful experience. If only I could have anticipated such good outcomes in advance…the fear of the ‘worst’ happening may have never been an issue. One thing is for sure. My experience of being on the other side of the fence will enrich my midwifery practice forever.

On another note..There are so many wonderful midwives and initiatives out there making births better for women and their babies…There are not enough words to mention all of their wonderful work in this single blog. But I would urge further reading around the following groups:

@birthrightsorg

@MatExpBazaar

@NatMatVoicesorg

@BirthChoiceUK 

@birthpositive 

…and Many more (happy to add to this list if suggestions are given)!

My baby ❤️ ‘Loveday Alice’

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If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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10 Top tips for caring for women with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in pregnancy for International Day of the Midwife #IDM2018 & #EDS awareness month

 or ‘International Day of the Midwife’ falls on May the 5th of every year. The theme for 2018 in three languages is…

  • Midwives leading the way with quality care
  • Sages-femmes, ouvrons la voie avec la qualité des soins
  • Matronas liderando el camino con un cuidado de calidad 

Also… Every May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) awareness month around the world.

As such….for , and EDS awareness month… I shared 10 top tips for caring for women with hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) during pregnancy birth and beyond. These tips come from my latest paper, authored in partnership with Dr. Gemma Pearce (@GemmaSPearce) and Dr. Emma Reinhold (@DrEReinhold ), entitled …

Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome during pregnancy, birth and beyond

Here, we present care considerations for midwives and the multidisciplinary team caring for this unique subgroup of childbearing women. However, we hope that women with hEDS will also benefit from this paper, as they make decisions in partnership with their professional health care teams. You can read the press release from this paper here.

I would personally like to thank the board members of the British Journal of Midwifery for making this article FREE for all to read. I would also like to thank the Royal college of Midwives for sharing news of the article here…and the Nursing Times for sharing further news here.

So what can midwives do to maximize the quality of care given to women with hEDS throughout pregnancy birth and beyond?…First of all….Know the facts…

  • There have been no prevalence studies since EDS received a major reclassification in 2017
  • Earlier estimates from 2006 suggest a prevalence rate of 0.75-2% for hyper mobile EDS
  • hEDS is the most common form of EDS
  • Up to 78% of women with hEDS could also have a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • POTS predominantly occurs in women of childbearing age
  • EDS is considered to remain largely under diagnosed.

Tips for midwives

  1. Discuss individual needs with women, as no two cases will be the same. Do this early, and always in partnership with the woman and the wider multidisciplinary healthcare team.
  2. Consider early referral to obstetric, physiotherapy and anaesthetic teams in partnership with the woman.
  3. Consider the need for alternate maternal positioning during pregnancy, birth and beyond. To minimise the risk of injury, positioning should be led by the mother.
  4. As wound healing can be problematic, the use of non-tension, non-dissolvable, deep double sutures, left in for at least 14 days is advisable.
  5. Wait longer for local anaesthetics to take effect and consider giving maximum dosage. Always be led by the mother on whether pain relief is sufficient
  6. Always consider the significance of a routine observation in light of existing POTS and/or EDS symptoms
  7. Promote spontaneous pushing rather than directed pushing during birth
  8. Promote effective pain management and the use of therapeutic birthing environments to promote reductions in stress
  9. Consider additional joint support for newborns suspected of having hEDS
  10. Document all joint dislocations and bruising marks on the newborn from birth to avoid misdiagnosis and/or wrongful accusations of mistreatment.

Research into EDS and childbearing is in it’s very early stages. We hope to build on this work to make a difference for all women with hEDS during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

pregnant belly

If you would like to follow the progress of this work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

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Theories of work-related stress

There are many theories of work stress and general stress theories. I have been trying to get my head around just a few, and so I thought I would share them here for future reference on work stress theory. Perhaps these will help you in your job and career?…or perhaps help you as a leader or manager to support your employees. In any case, please share your top workplace tips for working productively…. I would love to see these theories used to make your workplace a happier one ❣

worked

Transactional theories of work-related stress

The most commonly used transactional theory suggests that stress is the direct product of a transaction between an individual and their environment which may tax their resources and thus threaten their wellbeing (Lazarus 1986, Lazarus and Folkman 1987). Yet a more recent version of this theoretical model suggests that it is the appraisal of this transaction that offers a causal pathway that may better express the nature of the underlying psychological and physiological mechanisms which underpin the overall process and experience of stress (Lazarus et al. 2001).

In this sense, any aspect of the work environment can be perceived as a stressor by the appraising individual. Yet the individual appraisal of demands and capabilities can be influenced by a number of factors, including personality, situational demands, coping skills, pervious experiences, time lapse, and any current stress state already experienced (Prem et al. 2017). One multidisciplinary review provides a broad consensus that stressors really only exert their effects through how an individual perceives and evaluates them (Ganster and Rosen 2013).

As such, the experience of workplace stress according to the transactional theory, is associated with exposure to particular workplace scenarios, and a person’s appraisal of a difficulty in coping. This experience is usually accompanied by attempts to cope with the underlying problem and by changes in psychological functioning, behaviour and function (Aspinwall and Taylor 1997, Guppy and Weatherstone 1997). In order to recognise these external and internal elements of workplace stress, Cox (1993) outlined another modified transactional theory. This theory represented the sources of the stressor, the perceptions of those stressors in relation to his/her ability to cope, the psychological and physiological changes associated with the recognition of stress arising, including perceived ability to cope, the consequences of coping, and all general feedback that occurs during this process.

Yet, as with all transactional theories of work-related stress, it is the concept of appraisal that has been criticised for being too simplistic and for not always considering an individuals’ history, future, goals and identities (Harris, Daniels and Briner 2004). Additionally, in his later works, Lazarus stressed that his transactional theories of stress failed to acknowledge the outcomes associated with coping in specific social contexts and during interpersonal interactions (Lazarus 2006a).

cooperate

Interactional theories of stress

Interactional models emphasise the interaction of the environmental stimulus and the associated individual responses as a foundation of stress (Lazarus and Launier 1978). For instance, the Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) theory posits that effort at work is spent as part of a psychological contract, based on the norm of social reciprocity, where effort at work is remunerated with rewards and opportunities (Siegrist 1996). Here, it is the imbalance in this contract that can result in stress or distress. Yet in contrast to transactional theories of stress, this imbalance may not necessarily be subject to any appraisal, as the stressor may be an everyday constant occurrence.

The Person-Environment Fit theory is one of the earliest interactional theories of work-related psychological distress, suggesting that work-related stress arises due to a lack of fit between the individual’s skills, resources and abilities, and the demands of the work environment (Caplan 1987, French, Caplan and Van Harrison 1982). Here, interactions may occur between objective realities and subjective perceptions and between environmental variables and individual variables. In this case, it has been argued that stress can occur when there is a lack of fit between either the degree to which an employee’s attitudes and abilities meet the demands of the job or the extent to which the job environment meets the workers’ needs (French, Rodgers and Cobb 1974).

Yet the Job Demand-Control (JDC) theory supposes that work-related stress can result from the interaction between several psychological job demands relating to workload such as cognitive and emotional demands, interpersonal conflict, job control relating to decision authority (agency to make work-related decisions) and skill discretion (breadth of work-related skills used) (Karasek Jr 1979). The JDC model is concerned with predicting outcomes of psychological strain, and workers who experience high demands paired with low control are more likely to experience work-related psychological distress and strain (Beehr et al. 2001).

However, the original concept of job demand and control was expanded in 1988 to become the Demand Control Support (DCS) theory, describing how social support may also act as a buffer in high demand situations (Johnson and Hall 1988). As social support as a coping mechanism can moderate the negative impacts of job stress, another later version of the JDC theory was developed to suggest that it is those individuals who experience high demands paired with low control and poor support who are most at risk of work-related psychological distress (Van der Doef and Maes 1999). These later versions of the JDC theory were developed, as earlier versions were considered to be too simplistic and ignorant of the moderating effects of social support upon the main variables. However, the perceived job demands and decision autonomy outlined in the JDC theory have been acknowledged as being key factors in determining the effects and outcomes of work on employees’ health (Cox, Griffiths and Rial-González 2000).

Allostatic Load Model of the Stress Process

Early psychological models of stress may be suitable for describing how environmental events generate stressful appraisals for individuals. Yet another theoretical model, devised via a multidisciplinary review of Work Stress and Employee Health identifies the intervening physiological processes that link stress exposure to health outcomes (Ganster and Rosen 2013). This Allostatic load model of the stress process builds on earlier cognitive appraisal models of stress and the work of Seyle (Seyle 1983) to describe the developments of allostasis in the process of stress. Allostasis is the process of adjustment for an individual’s bodily systems that serve to cope with real, illusory, or anticipated challenges to homeostatic (stable) bodily systems. This model proposes that continued overstimulation leads to dysregulation, and then to poor tertiary health outcomes. However, the sequence of this model has proven difficult to validate empirically. Additionally, this research is concerned with the psychological rather than the physical outcomes of work-related stress.

Allostatic Load Model of the Stress Process

Allostatic Load Model of the Stress Process

Another model of work stress has been developed in response to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) advice for tackling work-related stress and stress risk assessments (Cousins* et al. 2004, HSE 2001). This model, developed by Cooper and Palmer underpins the theory and practice advocated by the HSE (Palmer, Cooper and Thomas 2003). This model explores the stress-related ‘hazards’ or sources of stress facing employees in the workplace. The acute symptoms of stress are also set out, and these symptoms relate to the organisation, as well as the individual. The negative outcomes are outlined for both an individual’s physical and mental health, however beyond this, outcomes are presented as financial losses for both the individual and the organisation.

Cooper and Palmer’s model of work stress

Cooper and Palmer_s model of work stress

Another model of work stress developed by Cooper and Marshall sets out the sources of stress at work, factors which determine how an individual may respond to such stressors, go on to experience acute symptoms, and eventually go on to reach the chronic disease phase affecting one’s physical and/or mental health (Cooper and Marshall 1976). This model is concerned with the long-term consequences of work-related stress, as well as the acute symptoms of, sources of, and the individual characteristics associated with work-related stress.

Cooper and Marshall’s model of work-related stress

Cooper and Marshall_s model of work-related stress

The Conservation of Resources (COR) Model

The above models all outline potential stressors or hazards relating to the workplace. Yet work-related stressors cannot always remain separate from general life stressors. Illustrating this, the Conservation of Resources (COR) Model, an integrated model of stress looks to encompass several stress theories relating to work, life and family (Hobfoll 1989). According to this theory, stress occurs when there is a loss, or threat of loss of resources. This is because individuals ultimately seek to obtain and maintain their resources, loosely described by the authors as objects, states, conditions, and other things that people value. Some of these stressors may relate to resources such as one’s home, clothing, self-esteem, relationship status, time and/or finances. In this context, work/relationship conflicts may result in stress, because resources such as time and energy are lost in the process of managing both roles effectively (Hobfoll 2001). This may in turn result in job dissatisfaction and anxiety, although other resources such as self-esteem may moderate such conflicts and stress (Hobfoll 2002). Such a model would be useful in the development of resource-focused interventions which aim to make changes in employees’ resources and subsequent outcomes (Halbesleben et al. 2014).

Understanding the Role of Resources in Conservation of Resources Theory

Basic Tenets of Conservation of Resources Theory

Principle 1 Resource loss is more salient than resource gain.

Principle 2 People must invest resources to gain resources and protect themselves from losing resources or to recover from resource loss.

Corollary 1 Individuals with more resources are better positioned for resource gains. Individuals with fewer resources are more likely to experience resource losses.

Corollary 2 Initial resource losses lead to future resource losses.

Corollary 3 Initial resource gains lead to future resource gains.

Corollary 4 Lack of resources leads to defensive attempts to conserve remaining resources.

(Halbesleben et al. 2014)

A Sample of Psychological Resources

Objects/ Conditions: Job Security Constructive Rewards, Reinforcement Contingencies, Inducements

Constructive: Autonomy, Decision Authority, Skill Discretion, Control Participation in Decision Making Opportunities for Professional Development Resilience

Social Support: (supervisor, coworker, organization, spousal, customer, etc.)

Energies: Time Away from Work, Recovery Experiences

Key: Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, Locus of Control, Core Self-Evaluation Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability

Macro: Family-Friendly Workplace Policies

(Halbesleben et al. 2014)

The Revised Transactional Model of Occupational Stress and Coping

One model combines both Lazarus’ transactional theory of stress and coping (Lazarus 1986) and Karasek’s JDC theory (Karasek Jr 1979) is the revised transactional model of occupational stress and coping presented by Goh and colleagues (Goh, Sawang and Oei 2010). This model demonstrates how individuals appraise, cope with and experience occupational stress. This process involves an individual firstly encountering a potential stressor and appraising their experience of it. Subsequently, this model demonstrates how the individual then goes on to a secondary phase of risk appraisal, where coping strategies are initiated in response to the individuals experience of the initial stressor. The model also outlines how immediate outcomes and outcomes after 2 to 4 weeks are involved throughout this process of stress and coping.

In this case, the model demonstrates a direct link between the primary appraisal of the stressor and primary stress outcomes, and also a direct link between the primary and secondary stress outcomes. This process demonstrates how the appraisals of stressful events can significantly impact on an individual’s experience of stress and its associated outcomes. This model also provides support to the effect of emotions on a person’s choice of coping strategy (Ficková 2002). Notably, this model posits that the experience of stress, coping and the development of negative outcomes can occur at different points in the process of occupational stress and coping, and can be triggered by both psychological and behavioural coping factors.

The Revised Transactional Model of Occupational Stress and Coping

This model is my personal favourite as it explains the process and experience of stress and appraisal, along with the outcomes of stress. Here, we can also see how each component relates to one another. These are just a few of the stress models out there. Some can be applied to life, and some to areas of the workplace. Are the two ever really separate?…If you have any more you would like me to add then please let me know. I hope these few give us all something to think about in the field of work-related stress research and practice.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

References

Aspinwall, L. G. and Taylor, S. E. (1997) ‘A Stitch in Time: Self-Regulation and Proactive Coping.’. Psychological Bulletin 121 (3), 417

Beehr, T. A., Glaser, K. M., Canali, K. G., and Wallwey, D. A. (2001) ‘Back to Basics: Re-Examination of Demand-Control Theory of Occupational Stress’. Work & Stress 15 (2), 115-130

Caplan, R. D. (1987) ‘Person-Environment Fit Theory and Organizations: Commensurate Dimensions, Time Perspectives, and Mechanisms’. Journal of Vocational Behavior 31 (3), 248-267

Cooper, C. L. and Marshall, J. (1976) ‘Occupational Sources of Stress: A Review of the Literature Relating to Coronary Heart Disease and Mental Ill Health’. Journal of Occupational Psychology 49 (1), 11-28

Cousins*, R., Mackay, C. J., Clarke, S. D., Kelly, C., Kelly, P. J., and McCaig, R. H. (2004) ‘‘Management Standards’ Work-Related Stress in the UK: Practical Development’. Work & Stress 18 (2), 113-136

Cox, T., Griffiths, A., and Rial-González, E. (2000) ‘Research on Work-Related Stress: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities

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French, J. R., Caplan, R. D., and Van Harrison, R. (1982) The Mechanisms of Job Stress and Strain.: Chichester [Sussex]; New York: J. Wiley

French, J. R., Rodgers, W., and Cobb, S. (1974) ‘Adjustment as Person-Environment Fit’. Coping and Adaptation, 316-333

Ganster, D. C. and Rosen, C. C. (2013) ‘Work Stress and Employee Health A Multidisciplinary Review’. Journal of Management, 0149206313475815

Goh, Y. W., Sawang, S., and Oei, T. P. (2010) ‘The Revised Transactional Model (RTM) of Occupational Stress and Coping: An Improved Process Approach’. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Organisational Psychology 3, 13-20

Guppy, A. and Weatherstone, L. (1997) ‘Coping Strategies, Dysfunctional Attitudes and Psychological Well-being in White Collar Public Sector Employees’. Work & Stress 11 (1), 58-67

Halbesleben, J. R., Neveu, J., Paustian-Underdahl, S. C., and Westman, M. (2014) ‘Getting to the “COR” Understanding the Role of Resources in Conservation of Resources Theory’. Journal of Management 40 (5), 1334-1364

Harris, C., Daniels, K., and Briner, R. B. (2004) ‘How do Work Stress and Coping Work? Toward a Fundamental Theoretical Reappraisal’. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling 32 (2), 223-234

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Being Examined: Tips for your viva

This wisdom comes from the 10th annual ‘Life beyond the PhD’ conference () hosted at Cumberland Lodge. I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend and gather a multitude of hints and tips for my academic career…Now I plan to share them here for those who wish to read them…I have also experienced a viva voce examination…so these viva tips also come from me too.

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What is a viva voce?

In a nutshell it is the oral assessment of your PhD Thesis.

So your first viva tip would be….know how a PhD/doctorate/thesis is defined!…Here is a sample of some of the key phrases and expressions relating to ‘doctorateness’:

  • worthy of publication either in full or abridged form;

  • presents a thesis embodying the results of the research;

  • original work which forms an addition to knowledge;

  • makes a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and offers evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or the exercise of independent critical power;

  • shows evidence of systematic study and the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject;

  • the thesis should be a demonstrably coherent body of work;

  • shows evidence of adequate industry and application;

  • understands the relationship of the special theme of the thesis to a wider field of knowledge;

  • represents a significant contribution to learning, for example, through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory or the revision of older views;

  • provides originality and independent critical ability and must contain matter suitable for publication;

  • adequate knowledge of the field of study;

  • competence in appropriate methods of performance and recording of research;

  • ability in style and presentation;

  • the dissertation is clearly written;

  • takes account of previously published work on the subject.

Source: Searching for ‘Doctorateness’.

The problem is…..that a range of literature has pointed out the variability in examination processes across universities, individual examiners, disciplines. Yup, this can be a fairly subjective process. So it is your job within your thesis and within your viva to make your case and convince your examiners that your work is indeed doctoral work.

Within Wellington’s (2013) framework for assessing ‘Doctorateness’, there are seven categories listed for which doctorates may contribute original knowledge. Therefore, in order for ‘Doctorateness’ to be unequivocally established for your thesis, it is important to apply the categories of this framework to each component of your research. The table below was added to my own thesis in order to prove how and why my work was indeed doctoral work.

Category number Category description Evidence
1 Building new knowledge, e.g. by extending previous work or ‘putting a new brick in the wall’. The Delphi method has been used previously to assess the workplace needs of midwifery populations (Hauck, Bayes and Robertson 2012). Yet the views and opinions of an expert panel about the design and development of an online intervention designed to support midwives in work-related psychological distress have been gathered and presented for the first time within this thesis.
2 Using original processes or approaches, e.g. applying new methods or techniques to an existing area of study. As the Delphi study presented within this thesis was a modified one, where the identity of experts remained unknown to the researcher, and free text response options accompanied each statement, it has also applied somewhat original processes and approaches to an existing area of study.

 

3 Creating new syntheses, e.g. connecting previous studies or linking existing theories or previous thinkers. Chapter one presents the first narrative review to integrate studies of midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro et al. 2015). This original knowledge demonstrates how midwives working in rural, poorly resourced areas who experience neonatal and maternal death more frequently can experience death anxieties, where midwives working in urban and well-resourced areas do not. This creation of new syntheses connects previous studies and existing theories together to form new knowledge.

 

The mixed-methods systematic review presented within chapter three is the first of its kind to collate and present the current and available evidence in relation to existing interventions targeted to support midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro, Clyne and Fulton 2017).

 

4 Exploring new implications, for either practitioners, policy makers, or theory and theorists. Chapter two makes an original contribution to ethical decision making, and may be extrapolated and applied to other healthcare professions who may also now consider the provision of confidential support online.
5 Revisiting a recurrent issue or debate, e.g. by offering new evidence, new thinking, or new theory. The original research presented in chapter two contributes to an ongoing academic dialogue in relation to ethical decision making.
6 Replicating or reproducing earlier work, e.g. from a different place or time, or with a different sample. The mixed-methods systematic review, presented in chapter three somewhat replicates earlier work from a different place, time, and with a different inclusion sample (Shaw, Downe and Kingdon 2015).

 

7 Presenting research in a novel way, e.g. new ways of writing, presenting, disseminating. The results of this research have been disseminated via popular media publications throughout. A further summary of this research is planned for publication. Furthermore, this research has also informed new guidance, published by the Royal College of Midwives, who also present the findings of this research in a new way. This new guidance is intended to guide heads of midwifery to support midwives experiencing work-related stress. Evidence of this can be found in Appendix 15.

 

Adapting this table to fit your own work should assist you in realizing how your own research can be argued to be doctoral work, both in your thesis and in your viva. Once this argument is clear in your own mind, your confidence should rise and enable you to direct your thoughts towards a really positive goal. Getting your PhD!…and not just because you want it, but because you are worthy of it! You have worked really hard for this opportunity, and seeing your work match up to this framework can really help you to visualize your successes. But now there are other things you can do to help you prepare…

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Viva tips

Just because you have submitted your thesis, this does not mean you can sit back a relax until your viva day. Following a short break, and with fresh eyes, you should be revisiting your thesis and getting to know it really well. Also, be sure to keep up to date with any new research arising in your field, it may well be discussed in your viva!

Get to know your university’s policies and procedures. This will help you to prepare for how the viva voce may play out on the day. As your examiners will be drawing upon their own expertise, make sure that you also have a broad knowledge of their work!

Pick your battles. Fighting every point can be really jarring for everyone in the room, and your examiners need to see that you can accept constructive criticism and reflect. Decide what you will really defend, and what you are willing to let go of. This means that you will need to anticipate what your examiners may ask you. Here, it is a good idea to mock up some practice questions. Try defending the questions you fear most. This will help you to face your demons and formulate your arguments….constructively. An extra tip here would be to record yourself arguing your points. How do you sound? are you believable? How do you come across?

Having your supervisor with you can be very reassuring and comforting, although they may well not be allowed to speak during your viva voce. However, try to have them sit next to you or behind you, as eye contact or some other gestures, however well meaning may put you off your game.

Once you get to the viva, be prepared to break the ice. Your examiners are not ogres. They want you to pass! Starting your viva with a warm greeting can set the tone for the session, so don’t start with your defensive wall up too high! You can also set the scene with a short presentation to cover some broad points you anticipate coming up. Use this time to also show your knowledge and demonstrate your own unique way of thinking and working.

If there has been a long gap between your thesis submission and your viva, you may now have moved on to new ways of thinking or changed your original work to move on to a new project. Remember that this new work does not count in your viva. You must remain focused on what you submitted.

If the discussion moves to really complex debates, it is important to keep your cool, remain professional and don’t turn into a robot who has learnt their responses off by heart. Also, don’t be overly humble or point out your own weaknesses directly…if they are raised by the examiners, then you can show respectful considerations to other methods, but it is still important not to shoot yourself in the foot.

Your viva can last a good few hours…it is basically a brain marathon! So you will need to prepare both mentally and physically. This means de-stressing, eating and sleeping well…and generally giving time to your own self care regime. If you need a break during the session, don’t be afraid to ask for one. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, take a constructive pause to write or read and deliberate. It can’t be an extremely emotional and draining experience.

However, some people can enjoy their viva. After all, you will be speaking about your own work with experts in the field for some time. This is a chance to show off, be proud of what you have achieved and even learn more! Thinking in this positive way may make the viva experience not seem so daunting.

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I personally found my own viva experience very daunting, emotional and stressful. However, my examiners were not ogres…they too wanted me to pass and to help me make the best of my work… Following the submission of my revised thesis, I realized how much better my thesis now is because of this viva process and the input of my examiners. Having now gone beyond the viva process, I believe that I have truly earned my PhD. I worked hard for it. It didn’t come easy. It was a brain marathon. But would a PhD really be worth having if it was easy to achieve?

I can also now reflect on this process and learn from it. It is an experience that will certainly stay with me and enrich my future work. I hope it will also enable me to improve my own examination and supervisory skills in future.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

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Highlights from the Third Annual #BirthTrauma conference #birthtrauma18

birth trauma study day

The first week back in January and I am invited by the wonderful becca moore @dr_bjm to share some research thoughts and ideas at the 3rd annual birth trauma study day in London = 

First of all..thank you for arranging and facilitating this day. It really is growing in strength and popularity year on year as this topic gathers momentum. You are a true #maternityleader for making this happen. Thank you also to those who participated in such important debates and discussion…and to those supported me to present my work as a new mum (baby Loveday is now 6 weeks old and as you can see….she was able to join her mum on stage 🙂

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The discussions that followed on Twitter were also pretty awesome and continue to thrive online. I can see may collaborations being born out of this day…what change may come I wonder? – #BirthTrauma19 will be even bigger and better…that’s for sure!

What struck me most about the speakers involved in this conference, is that every one of us was drawing from some kind of personal experience. Our past traumas had been turned into passion…fire and fury to make a change in the world…to make is better for the next person in some way.

“We had turned our wounds into wisdom.” – Me

Thank you to those who engaged in my presentation. I was thrilled to share some of my PhD work and the findings of other research studies to raise awareness of psychological distress in midwifery populations. The beautiful images below capture some of the key messages from my slides.

selfcare

small things

64%

Further statistics around midwives at work can be found here.

Traumatised midwives

compassion fatigue

I also really enjoyed the ethical debates around providing online anonymity and confidentiality for midwives in psychological distress who wish to seek help. You can read the wider arguments for this here. Do you have any further thoughts on this? I would love to hear them!

Once again…Thank you so much to everyone for making this event so amazing. The quote that I believe summed up the vibe in the room was this…shared by @millihill .

 

“If we can find ways of harvesting the energy in women’s oceanic grief we shall move mountains.” –Germaine Greer

🎓🌟😀

Overall take home messages…

  • Tailored care is needed for every family
  • A healthy baby is not ALL that matters
  • Good outcomes include good psychological outcomes
  • Kindness and compassion cost nothing yet can really make a difference
  • Appropriate use of language can make or break the birthing experience
  • The power of listening can never be underestimated
  • We must remember that fathers and wider family members may also be affected by trauma in the birth room.
  • A traumatic experience is always subjective. What is traumatic for some, may be unremarkable for others.
  • Mothers can have a positive experience of a clinically complicated birth, or a traumatic experience of a seemingly straightforward birth.
  • Any past trauma can always be re-awoken
  • The best care is delivered by a workforce that is healthy and cared for.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

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5 career tips for a successful academic application

This wisdom comes from the 10th annual ‘Life beyond the PhD’ conference () hosted at Cumberland Lodge. I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend and gather a multitude of hints and tips for my academic career…Now I plan to share them here for those who wish to read them…

Tip One: Potential employers will want to know how they will benefit from having you work with them as much as, if not more than, how you will benefit from working with them. Why should they invest their money in you? Will they be able to tolerate you on a daily basis? This means that you will need to come across as unselfish, and avoid saying the same thing as everyone else…be different!

Tip Two: Avoid jargon, and make sure you back up your claims with lived examples! For instance..It is no use saying that your I.T skills are fabulous if you don’t back this up with a real lived example of how you have used your I.T skills to do something of real value.

Tip Three: A potential employer will only take a few seconds to scan your CV. Therefore, you need to cut out the gimmicks, reduce it to no more than a couple of pages and make sure that you have used clear and easy to read formatting. Everything on your CV should be in reverse chronological order, and tailored to the job you are applying for. Your cover letter should never be a replication of your CV, yet it should hold lived examples of the skills you have presented.

Tip four: Within your interview,  it will not necessarily matter what answer you give to any awkward interview questions, as long as your answers are void of generic jargon and backed up with a sound rationale for your choice. Also, it is important not to pretend that either you or your research is impervious to failure…what matters is how you handle things and learn.

Tip five: Be yourself, and be honest about any career gaps…being evasive over these issues will only arouse suspicions…the truth is always far more welcome….It’s often not as big a deal as you think, and a good employer will appreciate what you are planning to do to get back on track.

For further hints and tips see this early career researcher blog.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

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The #QualWorld2017 Virtual international conference, hosted by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (@theIIQM)

The virtual international conference, hosted by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (IIQM)  is the first online conference focused on the subject of qualitative research. I gravitated towards this as something new, exciting and inclusive. Plus, as my new daughter has just been born….a virtual online conference seemed to be the perfect way to share my latest work and breastfeed at the same time.

The poster I presented was:

Exploring the perceptions of new mother’s in relation to psychological distress and workplace support in midwifery. A Patient and Public Involvement study

I was representing The Centre for Innovative Research Across the Life Course at Coventry University. This work was formed in partnership with Dr. Gemma Pearce and Dr. Elizabeth Bailey, also from Coventry University.

Qual-World Interactive Virtual Conference

The conference theme was: Qualitative Research Across Boundaries

Keynote Speakers:

Prof. Amanda Kenny, La Trobe University, Australia
Prof. Trish Greenhalgh, University of Oxford, UK
Prof. Martyn Hammersley, The Open University, UK
Prof. Babette Babich, Fordham University, The Jesuit University of New York City

Here are a few snapshots of the keynote speeches…

As an early career researcher (post-doc) I really appreciated the insights shared in relation to progressing an academic career and thriving in a research centre. The idea that collaborations and publications can be planned to achieve maximum impact really appeals to me…. a few hints and tips in the right direction were very welcome.

I have yet to use or explore storytelling and narratives in my research career thus far in any great depth. As such, it was really inspiring to see how these have been used in other qualitative work. Ethnography is also an area fairly new to me, and so being introduced to new topics in this way really helped me to digest and think about new directions for my own research.

Then, to  fall in love with philosophy again was wonderful…looking at what makes science….science….within the terminology of the postmodern? Lot’s to think about here. And certainly lot’s to discuss. The online chat room was on the go throughout the conference, and on Twitter. The conversations really made me think about my own future directions in research and how it may be grounded.

Yet the best thing about this conference for me was the fact that it has been so accessible for me. Having just had a new baby girl, this conference gave me the chance to share new findings from our PPI study from the comfort of home. This meant that I could care for my baby and breastfeed whilst not missing out on the career I love. Thank you to the conference organizers for making this possible. …and thank you to the Centre for Innovative Research Across the Life Course for funding my place.

As you can see, this tweet of my experience was the most popular one of the conference… I think that these accessible conferences are really making history and showing the way for future conferences of this type.

In conclusion…I would like to reiterate the following tweet:

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤