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ROLE MODEL

'Keep a steady nerve and think of the women we are providing care for'

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Midwifery is so rewarding that it’s worth breaking an arm for, says RCM director Jacque Gerrard

Midwifery is not thought of as a hazardous job, but Jacque Gerrard once broke her arm delivering a large baby.

“The injury happened during one of the most wonderful experiences of my career. I was birthing a lovely woman who had a very big baby. She was very much in control in labour using only gas and air.

“The woman, her husband and I were very surprised when we weighed the baby, as he was 14lbs. She had an intact perineum and the baby was suckling on the breast almost immediately.

“The following day I ended up in A&E with wrist pain and it turned out I had a small wrist fracture. It was worth it as it was a beautiful birth and lovely family.”

As the director of the Royal College of midwives, she now faces fewer physical hazards.

Mrs Gerrard began her management career after obtaining her MSc in nursing in 1991. Two years later, she was the head of midwifery at Leeds General Infirmary.

After college, Mrs Gerrard gained experience in managerial and directorial services as head of midwifery at organisations including Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust and Bradford Royal Infirmary, before ending up at the RCM.

The college, which has over 40,000 members in the UK, aims to give midwives an authoritative voice in healthcare and to demonstrate the importance of safe midwifery care. It works to advance and support the profession while lobbying for investment in maternity services.

Mrs Gerrard represents the RCM on several influential groups, including the Department of Health’s professional advisory board. This expert group advises the chief nursing officer for England on workforce planning issues.

Mrs Gerrard’s role as director can be challenging at times, she says - but it’s an exciting challenge. She oversees a team of expert RCM officers who provide services, such as representing midwives who support women and their families across England. Her main goal is to ensure they reach out and help as many midwives and families as they can.

“I want to make a difference for midwives and members of the RCM who work incredibly hard by keeping the profile of the profession and RCM high in England and help to influence improvements in maternity services,” she says.

Budget cuts and staff shortages have made it increasingly difficult to spread the mission of the RCM. Nevertheless, Mrs Gerrard seems undeterred by the potential threat.

The RCM’s most recent project was the Protect Maternity Services campaign website. She has supported this by encouraging midwives and the public to email the RCM about any threats to local maternity services, such as birth centre closures.

Mrs Gerrard has also been encouraging midwives and members of the public in collecting enough signatures for the RCM e-petition to protect maternity services. It needs 100,000 signatures to prompt a parliamentary debate on midwife numbers. Sign the e-petition here.

The more midwives that she can reach and engage with, the more successful Mrs Gerrard feels.

She warns prospective midwives that the job is difficult, but adds that determination will lead to success.

It takes “sheer hard work,” “determination” and “commitment to the cause in terms of being really ambitious” to be successful, she says - but being a midwife is an amazing experience.

She says: “If the challenge seems to be getting harder, keep a steady nerve and think of the women we are providing care for. This is the most rewarding and satisfying job in the world.”

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