Behind the scrubs: the travelling midwife

December 5, 2023

Is there anything she can’t do??? This week, meet the incredible Carly: English-born and bred, mature-age student who did dual RN/RM honours, and is now a happy and childfree travelling midwife, podcaster, sessional marker, and sometime actor who seems to us to be exactly the kind of nurse we all want to work with and be like.

So Carly, tell us … why did you choose nursing as a career?

I grew up in England and growing up nursing was not on my radar, my mum was a nurse and to be honest, it never appealed to me as a job

Did you always want to be a nurse?

I loved acting and studied acting at university. After a gap year traveling, I found myself living in Australia. I got a few acting jobs here and there but nothing to live off full-time, so I earned money by doing plenty of soul-sucking temp jobs.

By the time I hit 30, I knew there had to be more to life, so I thought about what I liked.

I loved travel – and nursing was a profession that was worldwide. But I still wasn’t sold on general nursing. I also like babies – so I though ‘maybe I could be a nursery nurse’ … that was what I was googling – I didn’t even know the proper name for a baby nurse. And so, with the help of google, I discovered midwifery, which sounded far more appealing than nursing, so I thought ‘let’s give it a go!’

At the ripe age of 34, I set about applying to study full-time. My previous degree was over 10 years old and all my friends were reaching high points in their careers and here I was about to start it all again with a 4 year full-time course. So many doubts played on my mind… Was I smart enough? Was I going to be the weird old mature age student? How could we afford it? What if I hated it? 4 years is a long time…but I knew that 4 years would pass regardless, and if I didn’t do the course, where would I be? The thought of remaining in my soul-destroying office job was enough to make me take a chance.

When and where did you do nursing training?

I started my 4 year double degree RN/RM in 2013 at La Trobe in Melbourne. I’m still shocked now but I actually went on to do my Honours after my degree. Now, I still work casually for La Trobe as a sessional marker.

What was the best thing about your training?

It’s hard to nominate one single best thing, but I got so much out of this course – my whole life changed. I made new friend., I learnt that I was actually quite smart and now I have a whole new skill set. But I also now have a job that feels worthwhile, and while I may not be changing the world, sometimes I make a difference to one person’s world for that hour or day or week.

What was the worst thing about it?

The worst thing about studying – the long placements where you’re working full-time hours with no pay, and then having to go to work for money so you can survive and then trying to find time to also study and write essays. Working with nurses/midwives who didn’t like working with students and were happy to let you know that you were quite the annoyance for them for also pretty awful.

What specialty did you start your career in?

I went straight into midwifery in my grad year. I was able to rotate across all areas of mid-antenatal, postnatal, birthing, and neonates. With one short rotation on a nursing ward – I won’t lie I hated the nursing rotation and cried every day I worked there. So once grad year was over, I stayed solidly in midwifery. After a few years, I then moved to SCN as core staff but still picked up extras in birthing and the postnatal ward.

I even got some use for my RN by becoming a nurse immuniser and doing vaccinations and getting some work back in my former field as an onset nurse.

Did that change? If so, why? Was the change for the best?

After 5 years in the same hospital, I quit to travel Australia and become a travel midwife, which is what I do now.

What is a common myth about your job or field of expertise?

A lot of people don’t always understand the scope of practice a midwife can work under; pregnant women can go their whole pregnancy only seeing a midwife if everything is straightforward. That a doctor doesn’t need to be in the birth room. And that all midwives want lots of babies – I’m happily childfree!!!!

Which has been your best nursing job ever, and why?

I loved working onset as it combined my old acting life with my new life as a nurse/midwife. It’s great to be able to use your skill set outside of the hospital environment..

What do you love about being a nurse?

I love that everyday is different, no 2 shifts are the same. Especially with midwifery, you never know what’s going to walk through the door. Now working as a travel midwife, I love the freedom, that I can work across the country, I’m seeing so many places in Australia that I never would have visited otherwise. That I get to decide when I’m working, if I want 2 months off to travel I can.

What is your proudest nursing moment?

When a student midwife I was working with said that I’m the type of midwife she wanted to be….😁 beaming!!!! 😁

What do you like least about your nursing job?

One of the things that makes our job hard, is the lack of resources, I’ve worked places with hardly any stock, expired stock, broken equipment, no equipment and extremely short staffed.

What gives you the ‘ick’? What is your biggest nursing pet peeve?

The shared ward stethoscopes…haha 🤣 …have you seen them…??? 🤮 No one ever cleans them, they’re gross!!!!

But really… I hate the mean nurses that embody the nurses ‘eat their young’ adage …..I feel pretty lucky that I’ve only come across a few in my time.

So many funny stories….from the dad passing out at the birth of the baby…totally unconcious…so we had to call a code blue on him…he was fine. The incredible is when you see parents who have been doing IVF for 20 years and they finally have a live baby – those moments are so heartwarming.

Scary is the theatre nurse calling you to say they’ve started the c-section and you’re not even in the theatre and you rush to the OT and find a flat baby and there are no paeds in the room and it takes them 3 minutes to get there – longest 3 minutes of my life…but your training kicks in and you do what you were taught.

If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

My kindness.

What’s an “insult” you’ve received that you’re proud of?

After she birthed she said “I wanted to tell you to shut the 4$%# up….but I’m glad I didn’t … you really helped me”.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

From the woman who said, “I’m so glad you were here with me when I had my baby.”

What is your advice for nurses considering a career pathway like yours? What is your top tip for someone wanting to do the same?

Do it – it can be scary going into a new career in your 30s – but it was honestly the best thing I’ve done – and as they say, “life is what happens outside your comfort zone.”

In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait/strength someone would need to work in your industry/be successful in your job?

Empathy and patience – we deal with so many different types of people who have their own ideas about what is best for them and their baby – even if we don’t agree. Our job is to ensure they are educated about their decisions and to support them.

Remaining calm under pressure and quick thinking are also good traits to have.

What’s one thing about your job/field of expertise that almost no one agrees with you about?

That you don’t have to stick to one nursing job. It’s your life. Do what makes you happy.

What is something about you that your nursing colleagues don’t know?

That I used to act and had a few small roles on TV shows.

What is your side hustle / other job / passion outside of nursing / life like outside of nursing …?

I still do some acting on the side, I also have a podcast HeadOnView with another midwife – we talk about midwife life, a blog about my life as a travel midwife – follow me at thetravellingmidwife.com. I do some casual work as a sessional marker and also some UGC online work – I like to have multiple income streams….and this way I don’t get bored doing one thing!!!!

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your nursing job?

Currently my biggest challenge is managing my own schedule. As a travel midwife I work contracts – so I need to be organised to make sure I have contracts booked in for when I want to work, and to make sure I’m managing my finances responsibly so if a contract gets canceled I’m ok and don’t need to stress.

What’s the best nursing advice you have ever been given?

If you need help – ask.

How do you de-stress from the juggle of everything you do?

Take long travel breaks – right now I’m on a 2-month break traveling Thailand. When I’m on contract – I’ll go for walks, chat with my midwife friends, have a facial or a massage … explore the local area.

If you could change one thing in nursing, what would it be?

The pay – students should get some sort of payment or subsidy for all the placement hours to make the degree more sustainable.

Qualified nurses and midwives should get paid more.

Finish this sentence: If I could start over again, I would …

not change a thing – I love my life and if something changed I may not be where I am now … although I probably should have kept up my Spanish and French classes – having a second language is so helpful.
Q: Favourite holiday destination?
A: Too many to list – but up there are Canada, Hawaii, and Thailand.
Q: Best place you have ever worked (even if it was for just one shift)?
A: I loved working in Hobart and Hamilton, Victoria. And all my onset jobs have been great fun.
Q: What’s one lesson your job has taught you that you think everyone should learn at some point in their life??
A: Empathy – don’t judge – most are doing the best they can.

 

Want more? Check out the Behind the Scrubs archive

Rural & Remote Nursing with Ben

From Volunteer to Cardiothoracic Nurse with Jooles
From RN to CNE with Kim
Why Elle is most certainly not ‘just’ a nurse

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