Grieving midwives at a hospital in Stoke-on-Trent have been commended as “absolutely remarkable” for staying strong for families under their care, following the tragic death of a colleague.
Midwifery leaders at Royal Stoke University Hospital have highlighted the “professionalism” of their team in the difficult weeks after the loss of 28-year-old midwife Samantha Eastwood.
“She was just a hardworking exemplary midwife, she was absolutely fantastic”
Ms Eastwood disappeared after leaving work at the hospital, which is run by University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, on 27 July.
Her colleagues raised the alarm when Ms Eastwood failed to show up for her next shift. Her body was discovered near Caverswall by police on 4 August.
Michael Stirling, 32, from Cromer Road, Stoke-on-Trent, has subsequently been charged with her murder.
Anne Mellor, deputy head of midwifery at the hospital, said staff had maintained a level of professionalism for their patients, despite going through “one of the worst periods of their lives”.
“There have been tears but they were controlled tears – we had to continue to deliver a service”
She said: “I have been in absolute awe of staff for their professionalism, their dedication, and their commitment to carry on and continue deliver care for women and families.
“There have been tears but they were controlled tears – we had to continue to deliver a service,” said Ms Mellor.
“What staff did do is find themselves a different room that gave them the opportunity to go into and do their general hugs and cuddles together, but once that was done they came out onto the floor again and continued as normal,” she said.
She added: “The mums and dads were aware of what was happening, but they were very appreciative of it. I think they shared the experience with the staff as well.
“It’s a very difficult time because you have a group of staff who are going through probably one of the worst periods of their lives, caring for women who were actually going through one of the best days of their lives,” she said.
“Staff had to find that balance between the two, and I think they were absolutely remarkable in how they did that,” noted Ms Mellor.
Sharon Wallis, head of midwifery, described Ms Eastwood as a “hardworking exemplary midwife”.
She said: “Sam was very passionate about the care she gave to women and babies, she was very kind, and she’d do anything for anybody.
“That passion and enthusiasm she had for midwifery was also shared with her students that she mentored, so for six years she supported students as well, and they’ve always spoken with love and kindness about how Sam has treated them,” said Ms Wallis.
University Hospitals of North staffordshire Foundation Trust
“She was just a hardworking exemplary midwife, she was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “Her friends would say she has a wicked sense of humour but very kind, very supportive, and just a very witty young woman, taken too soon.
She added: “Sam was a wonderful colleague, midwife, and the epitome of what we’d like as a professional midwife.”
Ms Wallis said midwives at the unit had been received messages of support from all over the country.
“We’ve got to be mindful that we need continue to provide a service to women and babies – and that really is the legacy Sam would want for us,” Ms Wallis said.
“The midwives have been supporting each other and the support we’ve had from other trusts as well as messages and sympathy from across the country have been absolutely magnificent,” she said. ”The staff have been outstanding.”
Stirling has been remanded at Dovegate Prison in Staffordshire and is next due to appear in court on 5 October.