Friday, March 24, 2017

Have your say! Consultation on the new Australian Maternity Services Framework

A pubic consultation is now open on the new Australian Maternity Services Framework. It's imperative that anyone with a stake in maternity; midwives, women, families, nurses, other words...everyone....has their say!

The 2010-2015 Maternity Services Plan came to an end a while ago.  A lot of good ideas and actions were embedded in the Plan, such as a commitment to midwifery continuity of care and support of Birthing on Country. There have been some successes, but we still have an incredible amount of work to do to address such outcomes as caesarean section rate of over 30%; twice the mortality rate of indigenous babies compared to non-indigenous babies, and suicide is still a leading cause of maternal mortality.   

One of my concerns with this new document is that it is a "framework" and not a plan. This means that the government outlines a "vision" and "principles" but abdicates the responsibility for implementation and evaluation back to the states and territories. This will lead to further inconsistency and inequities around Australia, which increases risk to the maternity services.

I am pleased to see that cultural safety and woman-centred care are key principles, but continuity of midwifery care is not identified as an enabler despite very strong, high level evidence that it makes a considerable difference to clinical outcomes. There is a brief mention of continuity of midwifery care toward the end of the Framework, and no talk of 'birthing on country' at all, which is very disappointing. 

My overall impression is that the Framework is very focused on screening for and preventing medical complications, which is right and proper, but lacks a more holistic, community approach to improving care for women and their families. 

Have you reviewed the Framework? What do you think? What do you think the Framework does well, and what additions would you like to see?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to be a wedding MC

The other day I had the great privilege and pleasure to be MC at a wedding of two beautiful young people. I have to admit I was very nervous because I didn't really any idea what a wedding MC did. Back in the day, we never had MCs, and any formalities were generally managed by the best man.

So, based on my experience, here are eight top tips for being a wedding MC, in no particular order.

1. Be prepared
The wedding MC is responsible for making sure the program runs to plan. Therefore, it is worth having a written time line of events; who is doing what and when, and running over things with the wedding couple before the day. That way you'll know all little idiosyncrasies, and be able to act when time lines drift, or unexpected problems arise.

2. Get to know the key players
By key players, I don't so much mean the wedding party, but rather the people behind the scenes such as the photographer, catering and venue managers, bar keeper and anyone else responsible for providing services. That way you can keep an eye on how the day is unfolding; liaise with appropriate personnel, and be the conduit between the wedding party and the service staff.

3. Stick to time frames
There's nothing worse than a wedding reception that drags on and on, especially when proceedings are holding up the food. So keep your introductions and instructions short and sweet; make sure the speeches stick to time; and do what ever you can to keep everyone on track.

4. You don't have to be a stand-up comedian
The MC does not have to be a comedian, although you'll probably be asked because you are a confident and personable pubic speaker. Your role is to facilitate proceedings, not to be persistently cracking jokes. The risk is that the jokes you tell will odffend least one person, which can put a dampener on things. And as one wedding planner said, if the wedding party want a stand-up comedian, they should hire one!

I would suggest that you plan a script if you are not a confident public speaker. That will keep you to time, and make sure you don't wonder off into more controversial territory. Let others get themselves into trouble; not you!

5. Get to know the venue and equipment
It's really worth checking out the venue beforehand so you know where important locations are such as toilets, fire escapes are, and know where to go behind the scenes, like the kitchen, if there's problems you need to sort out. It's also worth knowing about venue policies such as smoking and alcohol licensing restrictions. Similarly, make sure you have checked all equipment like the microphone to make sure it works, and give yourself time to fix faulty equipment before the wedding starts.

6. Stay sober!
My nervousness was further aggravated by the grooms telling me that I had been "employed" to be MC because I was very funny. What I don't think they fully appreciated was that I am only really funny when I am tipsy. But, getting drunk is not an option when you are a wedding MC!

7. Get to know people
It's great fun getting to know everyone at the wedding and hearing about their connections to the wedding party. As MC you can help people to enjoy themselves; encourage them to get involved; intorudce them to other attendees and help break the ice; and if nothing else, drag people up onto the dance floor.

8. Have fun!
I had a lovely time at the wedding and really appreciated the opportunity to celebration the union of two people in love. However, I did feel the responsibility quite strongly and didn't really relax until after my role had come to an end. But if you get too nervous, your performance will be stilted and won't flow. So, relax...enjoy yourself...and believe in yourself, the same way the newly weds believe in you!