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  • 12 June 2023
  • 11 min read

Working As A Midwife With A Long-Term Health Condition

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    • Richard Gill
    • Clare Fisher
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  • 887
“I recommend, to whoever has a long-term health condition or a disability, to go to occupational health and your managers and make them aware, so that they can make the correct adjustments for you.”

Louisa shares her experience working as a midwife with a long-term health condition, as well as helpful tips she has picked up during her career, such as finding a shift pattern that fits around your condition and communicating your needs.

Hey all. Welcome or welcome back to nurses.co.uk. My name is Louisa. I am a midwife here in London, and I want to talk to you guys today about being a midwife with a long-term health condition/disability.

My Long-Term Health Condition

I, myself, do have a long-term health condition. I have lupus, which is an autoimmune disease.

So, basically my immune system is attacking the healthy cells in my body and it's working against itself. I do have SLEs in my systemic and the way my lupus has affected me so far. I have only been diagnosed for two years though, mind you.

But from what I've noticed is that I have had some skin presentations of my lupus, but also my joints. I have lots and lots of pain in my joints and swelling in my joints. It does come and go. I haven't found a regime of medication that works amazingly just yet where I'm like in remission and feel absolutely no pain at all. I haven't gotten to that point yet, but hopefully I will do soon.

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Being A Midwife With A Long-Term Health Condition

But today I want to talk to you guys about how I handle having my long-term health condition and being a midwife at the same time.

I want to talk to you guys about the things that I have done to adapt in my practice, but also how my work has adapted with me. And some tips and tricks for you guys, hopefully, who have long-term health conditions on how you can adapt, but also what you should do to get support as well.

So, I accepted my job and then I had my first ever flare up of my lupus. And so, in that whole process of going through occupational health and everything, I was completely open and honest with what was going on with the person who was linked to my Trust and maternity unit, but also with the occupational health therapist and everyone.

Speak To Occupational Health

So, it worked out well in the sense of I was nervous to say anything, because I was just like, "I need as many people around me that can help me as possible." So that was good, I guess.

But I was open and honest with everyone, and that meant I also got to speak to an occupational health doctor about the symptoms I was having and about what I was experiencing, and they got to make adjustments for me.

So as soon as I went into my job, I had those adjustments in place. It was already set. My manager had been emailed from the occupational health doctors what I was and wasn't allowed to do/what was recommended for me to do.

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Find A Shift Pattern That Works For You

A lot of those adjustments were things such as, I can't do night shift because I don't know how to sleep during the day. And when I have a lack of sleep, it makes my lupus flare up more. So, my joints hurt more and my body kind of feels stiff and painful. This does also happen to men when working days, but I'm trying to get better at sleeping for longer during the night, which is hard, but we're getting there.

And then, I also can't do a bunch of consecutive days in a row. So I can't work, say three shifts in a row, because I get so exhausted, and my body starts to hurt after the second day. I'm just like, "I don't know how I'm supposed to survive past this."

So, that was definitely a big help and I definitely recommend, to whoever has a long-term health condition or a disability, to go to occupational health and your managers and make them aware, so that they can make the right and correct adjustments for you.

Because the only way we can be treated equally is to be kind of treated differently, to give you that step up to that equal footing, as someone who doesn't have a long-term health condition like you do.

Be Open And Honest If You’re Comfortable To

Another thing I would suggest doing is being open and honest if you're comfortable to be. But being open and honest with those you work with is so helpful.

For instance, with me, I had a little bit of trouble in one of the areas I was working with. It was a big palaver, but I was open and honest about it to people in a different area, and they actually were like, "Well, why don't you come work with us? And we can make adjustments, or we can help you. We would love to have you."

And because I was open and honest, I am in the area that I'm working in and if I need to do a VE, but my hands are hurting me that day, because it's very often that my hands, especially my wrists and my fingers, the joints and my knuckles, are very sore and sometimes they do actually swell. So, if my hands are hurting me that day, I just need to tell my colleagues like, "Hey, I'm so sorry. Today does not seem like a good day for my body. My joints are hurting me. Could you please do my VE?" And they'll do those examinations for me.

I'm a person who does like to push through pain unfortunately, so I will push myself to do as much work as I can. But when it comes to certain things that I know are definite triggers and will definitely kind of ruin me for a couple days to come, I know that's my limit.

And I tell them, "Hey, I'm so sorry guys, I can't do this. Please, can you do it?" And they are more than happy to help out because that's what it's like working in a team. You're supposed to help each other out all the time anyway. That's been a godsend, is working with people who can either empathize or sympathize with me and with what I'm going through.

And because I'm open and honest with it and I communicate kind of how I'm feeling that day and what's going on, it's really helpful that we can just kind of work together.

I recommend, to whoever has a long-term health condition or a disability, to go to occupational health and your managers and make them aware, so that they can make the correct adjustments for you.

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Chat With Your Manager About Appointments, Tests & Medication

Another thing I would suggest doing, along the same lines as being open and honest with people, is I would definitely sit down with my manager or have an informal conversation with my manager and just tell them, "Okay, so these are the doctor's appointments I have," because I have a lot of consultant appointments and I have a lot of blood tests I have to do.

So as soon as I find out where my blood tests are or my consultant appointments are, I just sit down with the person who does the rota, which is generally the manager. And I'm like, "Okay, so I need these days off because I have these appointments." Or, "This is what's going on with my medication right now. This is how it's affecting my body."

Or I think I might find a regime which is working well. So, I might be able to work two days in a row this week or for the next month. I can work two days in a row and then have one day there so that I have more days off together. It's just something that kind of works for me because I don't like working one day on one day off, which was suggested by occupational health; I hate that.

When I'm feeling better, I do sit down with my managers and I'm kind of discussing the rota in sense of, "Hey, do you mind actually putting me to work together two days in a row instead of having a day off in between?" Or I would say, "Actually, I need this day off because I have appointments on this day and that's kind of what I'm going to be doing for the next month or the next every two weeks," because I have blood tests every two weeks.

It's just, again, being open and honest and kind of communicating where you are at in your long-term health condition and where you're at with your doctor's appointments and your medication and regime, just so that everyone can work together to create a good working environment, and a working environment that works for everyone.

Because I'm someone who doesn't like to put other people out if I don't need to. So, I like to kind of get ahead of things. Plus, sometimes I feel like I can feel when my body's a bit off for maybe two, three months, I'd be saying, "I feel like I'm going to get ill soon." And everyone's just like, "Okay, what does that mean?"

And then about two weeks ago, I feel like I kind of hit that bottom of, "Oh, I feel really rough. I don't think I can do consecutive days and I don't think I can do this and that." And it was something that was kind of pre-warned anyway. And so, it was easy to make adjustments for people on the rota, so it didn't disrupt work too much. Which is why I say being kind of open and honest with where you're at and what's going on with you is great.

Being open and honest and communicating where you are at in your long-term health condition… with your doctor's appointments, your medication and regime, creates a good working environment.

Remember: You Are Protected By The Law

Also, I just wanted to say that remember working within the NHS, and just working in the UK, there are legal things that they can and cannot do. They cannot discriminate against you because of a long-term health condition or a disability. It's against the law.

So, don't feel scared to be open and honest about it because you've got the law on your side. We are so lucky in this country to have that when it comes to things like gender, race, sexuality, and then also disabilities. So, don't be scared, be open and honest. They must make adjustments, and it's something that they're willing to do. There's a whole reason why the NHS has occupational health therapists and doctors to make sure that you are okay.

So, I would just suggest being open and honest and just getting everything out on the table so that they can make work for you, because they need staff, so they're not going to just kick you out because A, illegal, and B, they need staff. So, make sure that you do what's best for you.

And if there's something that you don't like, just kind of talk it through, see if you can talk it through and have that open honest discussion. Or if there's something that you think, "Actually, maybe this would help me more," again, bring it to the occupational health and hopefully they can work that into your adjustments and requirements.

Further Resources

I hope this video has been helpful and if you guys want more tips and tricks, there are hundreds of articles on nurses.co.uk.

Also, if you want to check out more job descriptions and listings that are out there, you can also check that out on nurses.co.uk’s job board.

About the author

  • Louisa Lewis
    Midwife

I'm a qualified Midwife working in a London trust. Alongside my work,I also create vlogs for my channel, Being Louisa, and for Nurses.co.uk.

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About the author

I'm a qualified Midwife working in a London trust. Alongside my work,I also create vlogs for my channel, Being Louisa, and for Nurses.co.uk.

    • Richard Gill
    • Clare Fisher
  • 1
  • 887

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    • Tracie Mckelvie 11 months ago
      Tracie Mckelvie
    • Tracie Mckelvie
      11 months ago

      Thank you Louisa for sharing your experience - both from living with a LT health condition, and for advocating for ... read more

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