Meet the Team: Grace

Baby Lifeline Training welcomed Grace to the team in February 2018 to take on the role of Research and Development Assistant. With a background in nursing she has a working knowledge of the NHS putting her in a great position for understanding the work that Baby Lifeline carries out.  Let’s get to know Grace in her own words!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I have always been someone who is easily fascinated by almost everything (with the possible exception of organised sports, although this might be more to do with my own coordination problems than anything else). So, like my colleague, Daniella, I was very indecisive about this question growing up. At various times, I have wanted (still want) to be everything from radio DJ to vet, fashion designer to translator, lyricist to child psychologist, botanist to pianist… I could go on.

However, I realised that the most important thing to me, in my career, was to do something I saw as helping others. So, (realising the need to limit myself slightly) I chose nursing, and it was the first thing that stuck. This was much to my mother’s surprise as, apparently, I had sworn never to follow in her footsteps. My mother is also a nurse, and some of my earliest memories involve seeing her in her uniform and getting to ‘camp’ on the floor in my parent’s room when she was working nights in Children’s Intensive Care. I obviously went back on my word, as Children’s Intensive Care is exactly where I ended up in 2015 after completing my nursing degree and subsequent children’s nursing qualification.

What attracted you to the role at Baby Lifeline?

Last year, I moved from Dublin to Leicester and wanted to take the opportunity to try something new. I hoped to find a way to use my existing skills, but also gain new skills and a broader perspective. I looked at lots and lots of jobs and volunteer opportunities during this time, but none seemed to quite fit.

Then, I saw an advertisement for the ‘Research and Development Assistant’ role at Baby Lifeline and, as cliched as it sounds, just ‘felt’ like I had to apply. Once I had, and I began researching the role, I came across a newspaper article where Judy, our CEO and founder, spoke about her motivation, and Baby Lifeline’s mission. Quite often it is hard not to feel that, especially in the media, staff are continuously blamed for problems and harm, or that the same problems in the NHS are broadcast in shocking and emotive headlines, again and again, with no hope of change. In the article I found, there was a quote in which Judy was explaining the idea behind our UK M.U.M awards: “NHS staff have a hard time and can get very demoralised…We do very well in this country, on the whole pregnancy and birth doesn’t go wrong. But when something does, the healthcare professionals go through hell, just like the family…That is why we want to celebrate the great work they do.”

Here, I felt, was someone who, while acknowledging that there are problems, and having experienced great tragedy herself, did not blame staff. In fact, she has spent the subsequent 36 years working with and for them, to make care safer. This attitude of collaboration, innovation and the continuous decision to focus on the solutions, rather than just the problems, is what made me sure that I had to get involved with Baby Lifeline.

What experience are you bringing to the role/team?

Having always worked in front-line ‘caring’ roles, I was aware that the transition to a partly office-based role would be a challenge. It has definitely been a steep learning curve!

However, I feel that my front-line experience as a healthcare professional in both the NHS and Ireland gives me particular insight into, understanding of, and enthusiasm for our work at Baby Lifeline. Though not a midwife, my training and experience in both adult and children’s nursing, especially children’s intensive care, gives me a basic understanding of the far-reaching implications and challenges of delivering (or not delivering) safe, high-quality maternity care to mothers and babies.

At the simplest level, my nursing experience means I am often able to decode some of the more obscure medical jargon/abbreviation our office team comes across. At a broader level, it means that I have a deep appreciation of how investment in training, or the lack of it, impacts on staff morale, retention, and patient safety.  I understand the effects on staff of a lack of investment in training; feeling dis-empowered, ill-equipped, and undervalued – because I have felt and seen these effects first-hand.

My clinical experience in high-pressure environments has also given me the ability to deal with uncertainty, be flexible, and communicate effectively – all necessary in the Baby Lifeline world!

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done in your first few months?

I am finding the whole experience hugely exciting, but highlights have to include: meeting our incredibly distinguished Multi Professional Advisory Panel for their bi-annual meeting in London on my second day on the job, and also helping to write the reports that Baby Lifeline presented to the secretary of state for Health and Social Care. This included reporting on the amazing responses we received from a survey monkey request we sent out to delegates asking how our courses had impacted their practice.

The courses are also a major highlight. I have loved every course I have been on so far – learning from and getting to know our hugely experienced and inspiring faculty has been by far the best part of the job. It is an honour to work with them and observe their dedication to improving care and supporting their fellow professionals.

What have you learnt?

Too much to list – working my way around a spreadsheet is still something I’m working on! I have also been telling everyone who will listen about the role of human factors in healthcare, because I had so many ‘light-bulb’ moments on my first ‘Developing ‘Human Factors’ Skills’ course.

I think the single biggest lesson for me, though, which has been one that I feel will make me a better person, and a better nurse – is that one person really can make a difference. Working for Baby Lifeline has taught me that you do not have to settle for ‘the way it has always been,’ and that you can shift from listing problems to working on solutions, no matter what your place in the hierarchy. Be persistent, do your research, ask questions, find like-minded people, say yes to opportunities (even if you have to figure out the details as you go – the Baby Lifeline motto!), and eventually, people will have to listen.

Describe a typical day at the office.

At Baby Lifeline, a typical day at the office isn’t necessarily at the office!

When I am at the office, my day usually starts by catching up with the team, and then checking emails – this usually diverts my attention for at least an hour or two, as there is always something unexpected to sort out. I spend lots of time matching our expert faculty to courses and making sure each course has the correct mix of presenters to suit our delegate needs. I also answer queries from our faculty and help make the travel and accommodation bookings which mean our courses can be accessible all over the UK.

When there is time in between this, I work with my colleague, Sara, on Baby Lifeline’s ongoing research projects and partnerships. We also spend a lot of time working together with our expert advisors to respond to feedback and continually develop our courses, ensuring they remain up to date and responsive to the needs of healthcare professionals.

This is all fuelled by lots of tea-rounds and exclamations of ‘is that the time already?’

When you aren’t working, what are you doing?

I spend a lot of time cooking and eating – being a newly-christened vegetarian, I am always looking for an interesting new vegetable to roast! I also love arts and crafts of any kind and reading.

When I’m not doing one of these things, I’m often planning adventures. I am lucky to have amazing family and friends in lots of different places, so the next few months for me involve things like a wedding in Austria, concerts in Ireland, and a cookery course in London. I grew up in Donegal, on the rugged, rural, and breath-taking North Atlantic Coast of Ireland, so am also always trying to plot a way to get back there to see my family (and our collection of dogs, cats, chickens, and goats!).

Going off on adventures is something Baby Lifeline also excels at – and it is always exciting to see where we will be packing-up the Jeep and heading off to deliver a course next!

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