Just before Christmas I accepted a six month contract in Brisbane, Australia to work as a project manager implementing and evaluating an e-mentoring scheme for Aged Care Queensland. So, for the time being I am leaving Otago Polytechnic but am maintaining my connections with midwifery education as I continue to lead the SLENZ birth unit project - more about my new job and the SLENZ project in later posts.
Reflecting on the last 10 years of my life
I have been a midwifery lecturer for nearly 10 years. I would say that being an educator is not for the faint-hearted. It is not an easy option compared to clinical practice. The pressure on lecturers is immense - to be an excellent teacher, research and publish, continue clinical practice, be mother, father and fairy god-mother to students. There are incredibly high expectations of you from colleagues, students, institution and profession. And a lot of the time, there are few pay backs.
All worth while
But on the odd occasion I have had midwives say to me that they remembered what I taught them, for example, about post partum hemorrhage or suturing that has guided them as they have dealt with clinical situations. And that has been what has sustained me over the years.
Lows and highs
The lows of the last 10 years has got to be the times of conflict, when I have had to work through situations where students have failed assessments or placements. Dealing with conflict is always very difficult but the way I manage that now is to make sure there is a clear process in place and follow that accordingly. In other words, the process sorts things out, not me - I do not have to take ownership of what is happening.
The highs has to be the wonderful team of women I have worked with over the years. They are amazing women who are truly dedicated to the midwifery profession. They have so many skills and attributes, are incredibly warm and generous in how they have supported me, and are amazing midwives. I shall miss them.
What I have learned about being a teacher
When I look back at my early teaching days I cringe with embarrassment. And in many ways it is only over the last few months that I have really got my head around what being a teacher is all about. As I have said before, teaching is about more than content delivery. I feel the challenge for today's educators is how we can support students to look beyond the next assignment and exam to how they become life-long learners. This is not an easy task when undergraduate (and postgraduate) education is so focused on assessment and outcomes.
This leads me to my great passion: supporting life-long learning in the workplace, as opposed to the educational institution. In today's context of increasing demands, cut-backs and staff shortages, workplace 'education' gets put on the back burner. Yet, professional development, learning and support is vital to maintain a motivated and skilled workforce in health.
I believe the key is networking and supporting each other to support each other. In other words, if there's free time at work, we should be encouraging each other to go online and 'talk' to someone or read a blog post as opposed to being made to feel guilty about "not doing anything" and being sent off to do meaningless cleaning.
A new challenge
So, I'm off to face a new challenge and follow my passion and dream into project management, mentoring, professional development and life-long learning in health. Where I'll be in six months time, I do not know. It's going to be a crazy ride - I hope you join me!