When Cheryl first set up her own practice as a midwife it was tough. Not only did she need to set up her business structures but she had times when she felt very much on her own. It was quite different to the hurly burly of working in a hospital all day. As time went on managing her business put her under a lot of personal and professional pressure.

There were no mechanisms in place to support her and she was reluctant and embarrassed to share her feelings. Others found it difficult to ask after her and offer support. It’s not easy to share feelings that can make you feel inadequate. Nor is it easy for others to ask how it’s going or to offer support.

Are you feeling professionally isolated?
Many health professionals work in isolated settings. They can even feel personally and professionally isolated in their work environment where they do not have easy access to collegiate or peer support.

Areas of vulnerability
Isolation can give rise to physical and mental stress.

Health professionals feeling overloaded and alone can fail to recognise symptoms and signs of burnout or impairment in themselves.

We all need to be proactive in managing our health and wellbeing.

Tips

  • Look for opportunities to meet to discuss practice and professional issues with your peers. Having professional networks in place can have personal and professional benefits and can assist with:
    — Arranging leave and locums
    — Receiving advice and support from colleagues
  • Schedule regular personal time, holidays and leave for continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Plan ahead by connecting with a locum service to arrange cover for when you will be away from your practice and have strategies in place for alternative care arrangements for women under your care
  • Structure and complete your CPD by participating in interactive sessions wherever possible (even if via teleconference or over the internet) rather than through self-directed activities
  • Regularly attend regional, College and special interest group meetings that foster peer support
  • Look at being part of a peer network with regular meetings or touch points, in person or online, to discuss your practices
  • Respect your private time and have a strategy for triaging calls on your time – don’t be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Unless very urgent and there is no other option available, don’t give advice or treatment outside the professional setting. Set personal and professional limits by insisting on formal consultations
  • Find a GP to manage your health and the health of your family
  • Avoid giving professional advice or treatment to close friends and your immediate colleagues where there is someone else you can refer them to
  • Recognise your need for help and moral support
  • Be conscious that isolation places you at greater risk of burnout.

Other resources

  1. ACM Support Line

    The Australian College of Midwives can provide assistance and resources, such as their Support line for Midwives.

  2. Nurse & Midwife Support

    Nurse and Midwife Support is a 24/7 national service that provides confidential advice, support, resources (including case studies and articles) and referral.

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