A personal reflection of stepping out of frontline services

Read about Karen's experiences of moving to work at a Greater Manchester level

I’ve recently joined the Greater Manchester team as a Lead Midwife, seconded for 12 months to work on the Perinatal & Parent Infant Mental Health Programme and School Readiness Programme. With the focus to strengthen and embed the GM approach within Midwifery.  My background is working at Stepping Hill Hospital as a Specialist Midwife for Perinatal Mental Health.

It can be difficult leaving the hospital behind, knowing you’re about to embark on something that will change your working methods and setting. Even more difficult during a global pandemic, whilst knowing you have the skills to offer in both camps, left questioning where should I really be right now?

I’m currently working from home, with the occasional meeting in the hospital, getting masked up again to sit with my colleagues. It reminds me of how tired I was of wearing the mask all day, unable to read faces, irritation to my skin or forgetting it’s there, and pouring a drink on it. Yes I’m better off at home, it limits the contact with the virus and the chances of me bringing it back to my young family.

A close mental health colleague of mine once educated me on ‘survivor’s guilt’. It can crop up in so many life scenarios, and most recently with Covid-19. Not many of my colleagues have been directly unwell due to the virus, but many have lost relatives. Having the knowledge that many colleagues are anxious and scared to go to work is a challenging feeling, and one that feels uneasy. But then again the clapping made me feel the same, like I was cheering on professionals, including myself who never signed up to risk their lives.

I lift my thoughts with the over-arching theme of the projects I’m working on; the improvement to services and implementation of support for my colleagues, which was so greatly lacking in the specialism I work in.

The leaders I’m involved with are prioritising the families at all times and looking for ways and solutions daily to find new ways to support them all. The meetings are lengthy at times and intense, working in front of a screen for hours led to me experiencing headaches as I adjusted to the new style of working. But wait… what are they talking about? ‘The Project Jargon’ – I hadn’t expected that, maybe I should have read up on key phrases such as ‘broad brush strokes’ and what about completing a ‘deep dive’? Initially it was like being a student again, all my concentration used up just to get the gist!

When working from home the meetings can stack up – back to back, with little time to digest. I think maybe it’s more productive and at times more difficult. Relationships are virtual, and all going well until the broadband can’t take the load, then it’s a panic. I’m making a bad impression – I can’t even get my laptop to work so how can I demonstrate my competency!

I probably underestimated the complexities of working from home, and I am in total awe of all of my new colleagues who have been working like this since March, hats off to you! I have certainly been made to feel supported and welcomed, whilst never physically meeting you. And on an ending note, the work is now happily flowing as I realise that by being a part of GM I never really left the hospital behind.

Karen Murray, Greater Manchester Perinatal & Parent Infant Mental Health Programme & GM School Readiness Programme Midwifery Lead Karenmurray3@nhs.net