Case studies Ffion

Ffion (6)

Motto: Nothing I can do about it.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Ffion is 24 and is living with her boyfriend in Liverpool. They plan to marry within the next few years and are currently renovating the house they have bought together. She comes from a well-educated family to whom she is very close who live in North Wales. She is a newly qualified midwife and works anti social hours. Time off is spent working on the house and she says she rarely sees her friends because of her shift patterns and when she is not working she just wants to sleep – her average working week when she is on call is about 70 hours.


Educational and transitional pathways:  

Ffion did a degree in midwifery which was very intensive as the student midwives are working 4 or 5 shifts a week on the wards as well as attending lectures and completing assignments. They also had to work on the wards throughout all the university holidays to complete the qualifying number of deliveries.

After she qualified she did not have a job.  There was a cut back in the local health board and there were no vacancies. She did odd weeks of locum work covering sickness but was unemployed for over a year being supported by her boyfriend. She was unwilling to look for a job in another part of the country because her boyfriend had a good job and could not have moved with her.

She found the year that she was unemployed very stressful particularly as she had been working so hard doing the job for the previous three years.

“It was awful – for three years I had been delivering babies and working flat out doing a job I loved as well as studying. By your final year you are doing more or less the same as  the qualified midwives in terms of workload and responsibility. Then one day they say congratulations, you are now qualified and a registered midwife which is a great feeling – we all went on a massive celebration – then the next day I had no job. It was very dramatic – one week I did 6 night shifts in theatre, then on the Friday I had to hand my uniforms back in and the next week – nothing. I felt really bad about the mothers I  was looking after for home deliveries because we spend a long time building up a relationship – they trust me. Some of them  were so upset I was not going to deliver their babies after looking after them throughout their pregnancy. In fact, I did attend the births of a few of them because they asked me to. That was very frustrating because although I could help the midwife, I could not make any decisions because I was not the responsible person and there are all sorts of insurance issues.”

She applied for every vacancy that was advertised in her health authority and eventually got a .5 job on a temporary contract. This has gradually increased as more shifts have become available. However, she still does not have a permanent contract and works across 2 hospitals as well as covering for the district midwifery team doing home deliveries, post natal visits and clinics.

She is not happy in her job because of the working conditions and relationships with colleagues

“You have no idea how bitchy the atmosphere is. I am the youngest qualified midwife – only the students are younger. I ‘m not permanent, I’m not part of the clique because I’m  working with three teams so I don’t see them that often and with everyone working shifts, there are people I work with who I don’t see again for weeks.  Like when they are doing the rotas, I always get the split shifts or the clinics which are an hours’ drive away. Basically I’m the newest and the youngest so I get all the shit.”

She says she loves the actual job of being a midwife but doesn’t know whether she can cope with the current situation much longer. On the other hand, she is loathe to give up a job she waited so long for and is worried she will not get another.

She is thinking about doing a Masters degree but feels guilty that she will not be earning and contributing to the household although her boyfriend is happy for her to do it.

Ffion is unclear about her long term ambitions – she is beginning to think about becoming a private midwife or joining a private agency but she is ideologically opposed to private medicine – she feels driven to it because  she hates her working conditions and cannot see any other options.

Motivations and Strategies:

Her motivation is very clear. Ffion has wanted to be a midwife since she was about 14 yrs old and feels that for her it was absolutely the right career choice. She said for her it was more of a vocation than a career and what motivates her is being able to look after mothers and deliver babies!

What she does not have is a strategy for coping with her current working environment and fluctuates between “I can’t stand it any longer, I have to leave” to “However bad, I’ll carry on because it is the only way of doing a job that I love”.  Ffion is obviously calm and decisive in her professional role but does not bring this into other parts of her life. She thinks in extremes, is emotional rather than rational about career decisions and her thought on her future are erratic. Her memories of the year after university without a job make her scared to give up her job in case she cannot get another.  She is also worried that another job will be the same.

She also tends to think that things are outside her control and seems to have discounted the potential to change things. Several times she said

“That’s just the way things are – you can’t change it” or “If you put a lot of women together, they are always going to be bitchy.”

Ad hoc learning scenarios

Ffion is quick to learn practical skills. She watches people carefully and said she finds it easy to copy them.  For example, when she and her boyfriend were renovating their house, she would watch the tradesmen at work then as soon as they went she would have a go herself. She also used to watch do-it-yourself programmes on the television. 

“I got to be quite a good plasterer!”

She thinks the ability to recall actions and mimic them stems back to her early childhood. She said she was diagnosed with quite severe dyslexia when she was 9 yrs old but had grown into the habit of looking intently and visualizing words and also copying other children when she could not read or write something. This stood her in good stead at university where she consistently came top of her year in practical work

“If I see something once, I can usually shut my eyes and visualize them doing it. It’s really useful if you are watching dozens of midwives each with a slightly different technique – you learn a lot from just watching them.”Her parents live in the middle of the country and she remembers getting into a car and driving it around a field when she was about 12 and“…just knowing how to drive it – I think I had watched my parents so often”

Support Services used

Ffion says the university careers service did not really bother much with the midwives, nurses or medical students as they assumed they all knew what they were going to do.

All the health authorities post notices of vacancies on dedicated websites and together with professional association magazines and journals are the primary ways of getting a job.

She also uses informal networks of colleagues to her when there is likely to be a vacancy in their hospital.

Learning type

Learning from others: Ffion learns best from watching and copying others.

Learning through practice: Ffion says that because her job is so hands-on, there is no other way to learn and this is recognized in the qualification criteria which stipulates how many deliveries she has to do before being registered and how many instances of different complications she must have dealt with or delivered.

Information and Communication Technologies

Ffion is not a big technology user. She uses her phone to text and chat to friends and patients but says she rarely uses any social networking sites because she never has time. “If I’m not working, I’m sleeping.”

She uses the web to research particular topics, particularly the specialist medical sites, and has occasionally found YouTube useful for demonstrating particular techniques.

She thinks it may be useful to talk to someone who could help her work through her current transition – whether to go back to do a Masters degree, become self employed as a private midwife, join an agency or stick with her present job but cannot think of anyone or any organization who could help her.