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The year of the nurse and midwife

So it’s the Year of the Nurse and Midwife and, in my opinion, long overdue! So thank you to Nursing Now and all who have made this possible.

For me, nursing wasn’t my first choice. It was, in fact, children’s social work! Brought up by selfless giving and caring parents, who were foster carers to hundreds, I knew my future lay in attempting to somehow also contribute to ensuring children were surrounded by good care to enable them to flourish and grow.

For many reasons, social work training didn’t quite work out for me and so, after a rethink and reboot, (and extra hours sharing in the wisdom of the mature clients at my student job in the bingo hall!), I took to nursing.

I trained as a State Registered Nurse in South Tees, and to this day, am so very grateful for the experiences and learning I was offered. In particular, my community placements with the midwife and district nurse were to ever shape my future career. Nursing in areas of high need, addressing challenging health issues within clinic settings, people’s homes and in some very ‘odd’ other places, more than filled my boots and my soul! Myself and my parents were beyond thrilled when I qualified and got my first job as a staff nurse and then, after a year, began training as a State Certified Midwife in beautiful Edinburgh.

I’d heard that the Simpson Maternity Memorial Pavilion hospital and the wondrous legacy of Maggie Miles, was THE place to train. It was a huge honour, (and a bit of a cultural acceptance challenge if I’m honest), for someone from other than Scotland to be accepted on the course! It helped too that my new hubby was from Scotland and wanted to return to his homeland to do his accountancy training. Once again, the community experience during my midwifery training excited me.

I was given a more remote placement, away from the bright city lights. Initially I was less than impressed with that, however, once again, my nursing career stars aligned. The rurality, autonomy, sometimes very scary responsibility and downright grit determination of farming and mining communities, both shaped and challenged my practice. ​No one size fits all I concluded and, eureka, I learnt and, importantly, now understood, that without addressing housing, employment, education, poverty, and yes, in the early 80’s, still sanitation and clean water, the health of babies and families would not be maximised. Public health became my mantra.

The remainder of my career has been spent on community, my nursing ‘place’. Midwifery followed by Health Visiting, followed by many roles in School and Public Health Nursing, including safeguarding, looked after, youth justice, educator, inspector, supervisor, author, nurse supporter and enabler…… leading to my national and global work, has given me the nursing opportunity to continuously push forward, alongside hosts of other brilliant nurses, to achieve the best possible outcomes for children, young people and families.

My dear old wonderful dad gave me some sage advice on my first day as a nurse. He said that ‘to be entrusted by families to care for their most precious commodity was a huge honour and, therefore, my responsibility to do my very best’. He added, ‘if there is ever a moment where you feel you cannot or have not then you must step back and ask ‘am I in the right job’?, I guess we call this reflective practice these day’s but whatever, I’ve tried really hard in my 40+ years to do just this and am absolutely convinced that there was no other job than Nursing and Midwifery for me; yes dad, more than the right job, a privilege!

Sharon White OBE RGN, SCM, SCPHN (SN), MSc (hons)

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