My name is Myrna. I am both a Nurse and a Midwife. My career journey is not the typical journey of a healthcare professional. At the age of 19, I got my registration in midwifery in the Philippines. Armed with a diploma, with no experience, I applied to work as a midwife. But sadly, as I did not have the “connections” and opportunities were very limited, I struggled to get a midwife job. I had to resort and find other roles. Eventually, I got a position as a Nursing Attendant in a district hospital.
Given that the turnover of nurses in the Philippines is very fast, many nurses in our hospital were resigning and going abroad. This opened opportunities for me. My nursing supervisor advised me to take up nursing and prepare to go abroad for a better future. With her help, I juggled my schedule as a student nurse at day and a nursing aid at night. When I finished my nursing degree, I worked as a clinical instructor and a board exam reviewer in a midwifery school while pursuing my master’s degree in School Psychology.
Finance became a problem, so I decided to go abroad and worked in Abu Dhabi for seven years in a labour ward. Coming to the UK was not planned. A friend of mine came back from a European tour with a Nursing magazine from the UK. I saw many job advertisements looking to hire staff midwives and, eventually, I sent applications to three different hospitals via post. Two of them answered my enquiries and invited me in for a telephone interview. They wanted to hire me but as a nurse, not as a midwife. I felt that this was an offer I cannot really turn down. I accepted the 1st offer I received and on September 2001, I flew to England and worked in the main recovery and neuro recovery as a Band 4 nurse during my then adaptation period.
After 3 months, I got my nursing registration and received my Band 5 post. Less than two years in nursing, I learned a lot of nursing skills looking after post-op patients. By this time though, I began to miss handling deliveries and work as a midwife. I wrote to the NMC to review my midwifery qualifications in the Philippines, but it turned out that our midwifery course in the Philippines did not meet the UK’s midwifery standards.
Having experienced working in the Philippines and the UK, I have seen how different the practices are on both countries, from its requirements, career opportunities and how each country regards both professions.
How it differs—Requirements (Midwifery)
In the UK, midwifery is a bachelor’s degree level, whereas the Philippines requires a diploma only.
Having the interest to pursue again a midwifery role in the UK, I enquired at our maternity unit on how to become a registered midwife, then I was referred to a university. After passing the interview and exams for a place in Midwifery Course in the University I was offered a free tuition with transportation and a salary of a Band 5 nurse, while doing my training. I felt really blessed! Within 6 months of Midwifery training, I also had to pass a written exam which is similar with the Philippines board exam but with the added twist of essays. This was a requirement so that I can carry on the Midwifery course training. After 12 months, I also have to pass the OSCE for midwives. Before the end of the 18-month course, I was also required to submit 1 Research critique and 1 dissertation. Further requirements were 40 normal vaginal deliveries, 5 caesarean cases, 5 case loading, 5 gynaecology case and rotated to NICU, a month of alternative placement before we can qualify for our midwife license. One can imagine how tough the requirements are but once you have your hard-earned qualification, you will definitely reap the rewards of your hard work.
How it differs- Role and Opportunities Available (Midwifery)
Here in the UK, midwives’ functions are not only limited to normal midwifery, but midwives are also involved in the care of high-risk obstetric cases. I have experience in different areas such as antenatal clinic/wards, post-natal ward, Close Observation Unit /Obstetric Intensive care unit, Triage, Birth centre/midwife lead unit. There are also more job opportunities and areas of specialization like Midwife researcher, Midwife Sonographer, IT Midwife, Lactation Consultant, Consultant Midwife, Bereavement Consultant, Practice and Development Midwife, Supervisor of Midwife, Head of Midwifery, etc. Back in the Philippines, midwives’ scope of functions is limited to normal midwifery and conducting home births. The position of midwives in the hospitals provide limited growth and progress.
My hope for the future is that the standard of midwifery in the Philippines can be elevated to match the midwifery standards of the UK. It is my dream that Filipino midwives can be given the chance to be registered as midwives in UK.
How it differs - My Nursing Journey
On the nursing side, in the Philippines, the practice is also different if compared with the UK. Back then, I also worked in a district hospital, where the facilities are limited, and the work was more of basic nursing. However, I can say that these challenges have moulded me into becoming a more resourceful, resilient and independent nurse. It definitely has prepared me to the challenges ahead.
In the UK, I worked in a tertiary hospital, where you have the complete facilities, get to work with specialists and consultants, and have more opportunities for professional development.
My Current Role
Having two registrations has opened up more career & learning opportunities for me. It also boosted my confidence and gave me more choices in doing extra shifts. Currently, I work part-time (three days) as a research nurse/coordinator (Band 7) at a university hospital where I work on one research study with two arm studies. My remaining two days, I work as a research midwife (Band 6) with a small team of midwives in a NHS hospital with 12 active studies. Part of my role is that I am also assigned as a UKOSS reporter (United Kingdom Obstetric Surveillance System) during this pandemic. Since both of them are research, I feel there is almost no difference between my two roles.
I can say that my journey has been unique, tough yet fulfilling. Looking back, the challenges I have encountered have opened opportunities for me, way better than I have imagined. I feel blessed to be presented with these opportunities and be surrounded by people who have supported and guided me into becoming a better nurse, midwife and human being.