Part of the ‘Caring For You Campaign’ from the Royal College of Midwives is about challenging poor behaviour when you see it.
I have a big streak of introversion in me (like most people who like writing) and this was a problem on occasion as a newly qualified midwife.
What I would say is the one time I stood up to a doctor who I thought wasn’t being kind, I did it out of pure rage rather than any kind of reasonable plan (NB: I'm not suggesting this, it just happened).
He was about 6ft and heavily built, and I’m 4ft 11 and at the time was drowning in some scrubs that were supposed to be size small but could have dressed a whale.
I don’t think he was expecting this tiny midwife to turn around and snap ‘You’re not being an effective member of the team when you’re speaking to me like that.’
Ahem. Though she be but little, she is fierce!
Often the twenty seconds it takes to speak up is terrifying but once you're out the other side, relationships become much easier. Of course, you need to use your own judgement and experience with individual situations, but I think if everyone who was concerned about midwifery culture spoke up, it would change the profession by tomorrow morning.
Say you come across a professional who's being unfair.
There are times when you know in your gut it feels wrong but it’s very difficult to do anything about it. Sometimes you even end up laughing out of nervousness if someone’s said something truly awful, which can make it seem like you're joining in!
During these events it can be good to be kind to yourself and accept that’s your natural reaction, and then go and reflect by writing down what happened. You can get clear on what exactly was so wrong about the situation.
Then you can find that member of staff later and say something like…
‘You know, I must have misunderstood because I know you are a good and caring professional, so when you said (xxx) what did you mean exactly? It made me uncomfortable because I thought you meant (xxx).’
Also, if you’re an experienced midwife reading this, please consider the following.
If there’s a situation where a more junior midwife or student is being berated, your presence alone can help. Stand near them and make sure it’s obvious you’re watching. Another midwife observing the situation can defuse it.
I’d love to hear from you about your own strategies for speaking up, hit reply to this email to let me know.
To kindness in midwifery,
P.S. How to speak up, with examples from people who've been there, is definitely something we'll be covering at The Kindness Conference.