“Change exposes us to learning opportunities and encourages mindful reflection on our own practice”

This blog was written by Alana Divito, Midwife at Causeway Maternity Unit, Northern Ireland.  

Hello my name is Alana Divito.  I am a midwife working in Causeway Maternity Unit on the new continuity implementation programme, Lotus Midwifery Team. I am a Northern Nightingale, and am participating in the Northern Trust’s Global Leadership Development Programme as part of the Nightingale Challenge.

My professional career started in marketing, and communications after completing a BSc Hons in Public Relations.  I worked in management teams within the hospitality sector and the front-facing customer engagements were always the most fulfilling elements of these jobs.  I knew quite early on this career was not what I had anticipated, and it would not provide the job satisfaction that I envisioned.  I knew I was a “people person”, who enjoyed making people feel better and after receiving excellent care when I had my first daughter, Layla in 2010, I knew I wanted to give something back. After my second daughter, Maria, was born in 2013, I began working as a volunteer to support local mothers in my community with breastfeeding. This supportive and caring role enlightened my vision for the future and I applied to study Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast.  After my first day out in community placement in Ballymoney, I remember driving home with a massive smile, knowing deep within my soul, this was the right path for me. I still feel this way today.

I trained within the Northern Trust and took up my first post as a maternity support worker prior to my registration as a midwife in Causeway Maternity Unit in 2017.  I fell in love with Causeway not only because of the endless support and team camaraderie but also because my ethos and approach to care aligned with the values of the unit.  I have worked within the hospital setting for just over three years and have recently embarked on a new role within an integrated continuity of care programme, the first of its kind in the Northern Trust. This is a pilot programme that will take place over 12 months and focuses on trust and partnership. It includes a team of midwives supporting a group of mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth, and beyond, with a named midwife for each mother. Participating in this programme has really reinforced my passion for midwifery and high standards of evidence-based care.  I love that as a midwife, you have the opportunity to share such a life-changing event with women and their families but you also have the responsibility to influence practice to ensure their experience is safe, positive, and fulfilling. Leadership is central to this continued advocacy and protection of childbirth and women’s rights in maternity services. I have always understood the importance of the additional responsibilities intertwined in the role of the midwife, not just in the clinical maternity setting but also within a political and societal context.  I was nominated for the Global Leadership and Development Programme (GLDP), the Northern Trust’s leadership development training programme created in response to Nursing Now’s Nightingale Challenge.

The GLDP outlined several objectives, some of which have been more important in my personal development and growth. I wanted to have the opportunity to develop and build confidence in public speaking. I have fulfilled this objective well and have embraced several opportunities to speak publicly including presenting at the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council Conference, speaking at the joint Royal College of Midwives and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Annual Conference, which was held virtually on Thursday 5th November 2020. I have even had the opportunity to discuss the impact of COVID 19 on midwifery in a global context with Midwifery Officer, Fran McConville, from the World Health Organisation. These experiences have helped build my confidence and skill in effectively articulating key messages to a large audience.

I have also built my knowledge base and understanding of quality improvement, policymaking and the importance of data collection from fellow colleagues. We regularly take part in Zoom calls with Nursing Now participants from across the world which provides us with a ‘live’ update of challenges faced by young nursing and midwifery leaders across the world during the pandemic. This professional networking has re-energised me and influenced positive thinking on many occasions throughout this year.

Redeployment has been one of the greater challenges this year, yet one of the biggest learning opportunities for me personally.  Change exposes us to learning opportunities and encourages mindful reflection on our own practice and the practice of others.  Shared learning is built on two-way communication and developing strong relationships for the future is paramount. Without the personal development and experiences gained from my participation in the GLDP, I would have found redeployment and the continual change during COVID 19 much harder to navigate. 

I have learned a great deal about leadership style over the course of this year, and now understand that leadership style is not set in stone but in fact a true leader is fluid but cohesive, adapting with confidence to the challenge which presents. Participating in the GDLP as part of the Nightingale Challenge has increased my job satisfaction, happiness and has provided me with tools to better manage stressful situations. Our new Continuity Carer Team is named; Lotus Team and has been so appropriate in these uncertain months, as reassuringly, even in the murkiest, muddiest, dark waters the Lotus flower will still bloom.