My anxiety was always a worry of mine when I decided to embark on my Midwifery journey (yes, I’m aware of the irony!). I genuinely worried that I wouldn’t be “allowed” on to the course, that I wouldn’t be deemed fit to practice because of it, but I was.
In this current day in age, it was inevitable that my anxiety was going to be something I faced at work – whether it be the pressure/stress that the NHS is facing as a whole, or an emergency situation within practice. It was going to happen.
Now, by some miracle, up to this point I have managed to contain the anxiety internally (for the most part) – I have received criticism from mentors because unfortunately I cannot control the external effects i.e. shaky hands, clumsiness, rising heart and breath rate, I’ve even at times experienced blurred vision when looking for an important piece of paperwork for the doctors. However, it is a bloody amazing achievement that I haven’t just crumbled into a mess on the floor or experienced extreme hyperventilation like I would normally in a panic attack.
I don’t know whether this is because up until now I have been able to hide behind student status and my student uniform, with an experienced Midwife by my side at all times, or if it’s because I know I have a responsibility to provide safe timely care to ensure the health of both mother and baby – just get them stable Lauren and then you can have your breakdown!! (Along with your long overdue wee and a cup of tea)
So here are my top tips for attempting to control anxiety as a healthcare professional (specifically in an emergency situation):
- As soon as I get to work, I’m analysing the board, getting familiar and mentally preparing myself for the situations that I could be faced with that day. And then once I have been allocated the patient/patients I am going to be caring for I start mentally making a plan of care. Finally, once I have taken over the care, I do all of my initial tasks, gather any important information I need, and then I document everything including my plan of care. It’s written down, in black ink, I can’t forget anything!
- Any time something happens which alters the plan of care, it is documented, and a new plan of care is written. Documentation is SO important in maternity because things can change so quickly and emergencies are time-critical of course.
- Like you are taught when you are learning to drive, you need to be aware of everything, all of your surroundings. So frequent reviews need to be made in order to stay in control of the situation.
- Having taken up yoga and meditation recently, the best way for me to try to control anxiety is doing my breathing. I take long, slow, deep breaths, and try to relax every muscle as I exhale. However, if things change very quickly then this step may be skipped altogether!
- The BIGGEST saving grace for me and my anxiety when an emergency situation arises is that, in Midwifery, there is always a support network! When that emergency bell goes off, the whole world and his wife will be in the room within 10-20 seconds (obviously I mean doctors and midwives – useful people!) Everyone knows their role in each emergency situation and they just fall right into place and get on with it!
- DEBRIEF – I have to talk it out! I discuss with senior colleagues what has happened and make sense of the situation. This helps me to understand and also allows me to gain any feedback. I have often been praised for “holding it together” and acting quickly, when actually inside I was falling apart! So it’s reassuring to know that my anxiety doesn’t come across to my colleagues or the women in my care. It also means I can go home confident in the decisions I made that day and not let the anxiety continue all through the night!
As a Midwife, the women in my care trust me to look after them and their babies, and to bring their babies into the world safely. And my colleagues trust me to deliver safe care as an autonomous practitioner. I intend to maintain that trust and it’s important to me to not let anxiety take my passion away from me.
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Love Loz x