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Dr Doug Charlton on his career as a midwife #EQW2017

I’m really pleased to have been asked to provide some thoughts during Equality & Diversity Week. I think it’s an extremely important issue to acknowledge people’s individual beliefs, characteristics, and qualities – all of which can only enhance the patient experience and our ability to provide excellent care as we value each other.

Throughout my career as a male midwife, I have often been asked what it’s like to work in a profession where you only care for women and for the most part work mainly with women.

It’s true that midwifery is a female dominated profession but I think it’s important to make it clear that I don’t consider myself to be a ‘male midwife’, I consider myself to be a ‘midwife’. There is a huge distinction there because to be a midwife is to be with women and that is what I wanted to do in my nursing career. When I was training to be a nurse I relied upon the skills and expertise of clinical colleagues and teams to help make sure the care given was safe for the patient. Whilst that is also the case in midwifery, what I particularly enjoy is the autonomy to care for women during the whole journey from the beginning of pregnancy right through to birth. That is what I pursued a career in midwifery for.

In terms of the significance of being male, I think it comes down to something very simple. In order to be a midwife and to provide reassurance to patients, you have to make them feel comfortable and demonstrate that you genuinely want to be there to provide the best possible experience that they could ask for. If you are a good practitioner you will be accepted by both patients and colleagues, regardless of your gender. During my whole career I have only ever had one patient refuse to have me care for them – and it wasn’t because I was male, it was because at the time I was a student and the patient did not want to be seen by any students.

So my advice to anyone considering a career in midwifery, regardless of whether you are a male or female, is that you need to be prepared to be completely responsive, committed, and dedicated to providing the support and care that women require in arguably their greatest time of need. If you can do that, I can assure you that there is nothing more rewarding than supporting that special journey with someone who gives birth and becomes a parent.

by Dr Doug Charlton

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