I'm angry that bullying goes on.
But I'm not sure anger is a good way of sustainably changing the situation.
Today I'm sharing some thoughts from a newly qualified midwife friend of mine, Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, who has her head screwed on.
She reflects on the following situation in which she was offering care to a woman in labour, and was reprimanded by a senior midwife for requesting a doctor's review in an 'inappropriate' manner:
'I accept there was a contrast between the amount of investment I had in the situation, and my intimate knowledge of the woman’s situation, wishes and hopes for the birth, and the other staff looking after her.
This included both the midwife and the coordinator who are used to the ‘conveyor belt’ and fragmentation of hospital care (Kirkham, 2009). This can lead midwives to become ‘obedient technicians’ (Deery & Hunter, 2009) and their loyalties centered on the institution not the women (or other midwives). The coordinator may also have been under a lot of stress and tired herself (and possibly the subject of bullying by more senior staff or managers). She might have experienced my request as a demand, which she felt unable to meet - which has been shown to lead to coping strategies that sometimes include bullying or undermining behavior towards others (Kirkham, 2009).
Kirkham (2009) talks about ‘offending power-holders’ in midwifery, and this resonates with the situation, where it is possible that my request was experienced in a way which lead the coordinator, to feel she needed to assert hierarchies, and established codes of behavior, which I may have been flouting. Kirkham (2009) also identifies how the notion of our ‘risk society’ (Beck, 1992), creates fear, encourages hierarchies and tightly managed codes and rules, which creates multiple opportunities for individuals ‘to get things wrong’.
I'll be sharing Laura's thoughts on how to cope with these kind of situations tomorrow. But today I want to think about how I find it really interesting the Laura has 'moved in' towards the perpetrator to try and see them as human.
Did anyone see this article going around Twitter the other day about how if you do close up photos of spiders you can see they have tiny little furry paws with claws? They look almost like little dog paws. I guess they need the dexterity of paws to spin webs.
It's funny how if you look at someone in more detail, they're far harder to hate. Because though assertiveness, confidence and not tolerating poor behaviour is key if we're going to eliminate bullying from midwifery and encourage good, safe culture, I don't think we're going to solve anything through anger alone. Let me know what you think about this.
To kindness in midwifery,
Ellie and the Bradford Midwifery Society
P.S. We're a week into these messages. What are your thoughts so far? Should we be thinking about addressing anything else at the conference? The Bradford midwifery society and I would love to know, hit reply to give us suggestions.
Conference details are here and don't forget your discount code - it's 'KIND'.