As a nurse and midwife, I have seen people at the very beginning and the very end of their lives; in their very best and very worst moments. It has been my privilege to be a part of each of these significant life events.
By Dr Adele Baldwin
CQUni Nursing and Midwifery Senior Lecturer
In contemporary healthcare, we talk about person-centred or, in midwifery specifically, woman-centred care. One of the things that upsets me most is to hear students or experienced nurses comment that they don’t need to know about older adults because they don’t work in aged care. As older adults are the greatest consumers of healthcare, every nurse will work with older adults in their daily practice. Even in midwifery settings, mothers and grandmothers are present and involved with the pregnant and birthing woman.
“Women’s health is everyone’s business.”
The ageing nursing and midwifery workforce means that our colleagues are also likely to be older adults! The other thing that bewilders me is when a student nurse or midwife comments that they don’t have children so they may not be suited to working with babies or children. Really? Does that mean I cannot provide care for a cardiac patient until I have had a heart attack? No, big no.
On reflection, these two passions are consistent with my philosophy of care about women’s health. That is, age is just a point in time in someone’s life journey and women’s health is everyone’s business. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say that same village is responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of that child across the lifespan, especially that female child.
We talk about the holistic care that recognises culture, religion, and socio-economic background as being elements that, as well as physical and psychological conditions, make up the whole person. Why, then do we break life up into smaller parts? Surely, the existence of the individual is greater than the sum of the parts? Yes, as we age our bodies change and there are some physiological changes of ageing that are normal. Bearing these in mind, I believe we should consider the person as positioned on a scale across the lifespan.
To provide appropriate care for anyone at any life stage, we need to understand the rest of their timeline. For example, when we care for older adults, we must consider that someone aged 80 years or over now was born in the pre-World War II era or before. To reach old age is a sign of wellness, regardless of the state of health they are now experiencing.
Likewise, to provide good maternity care, we need to be contributing to the good health and well-being of those women from the time they are born to best prepare them physically and mentally for conception, birth, and very importantly, staying well to raise their babies. Also, women’s health is not just about providing care for women. It is about teaching those around them, including men, to support, encourage and care for all women, at all stages of life.
That’s my very simple view of the world and my philosophy of providing care.