With so many nominations for our maternity staff, we simply couldn’t choose one individual. Instead we shortlisted a group of inspirational women to represent the service at Newham Hospital. Below we chatted to them about their experience as women in 2020.
Tell us how you got to the position you are in today
Arona Ahmed, Deputy Head of Midwifery (pictured bottom left): I have always wanted to be in healthcare for as long as I can remember and I’ve been a midwife now for 26 years. I chose midwifery because I believe it’s such a profound part of a person’s life, not just for the mother but for the baby too. Next week is my birthday and like every year my mum will ring me up and tell me how I was born. And being able to play a part in so many mothers’ birth stories is a true privilege.
Serena Fisher, service manager (pictured bottom right): I started in the NHS 24 years ago, I actually started off in pathology with my mum and then was drawn to the maternity service. While I don’t aspire to be a senior manager I do aim to be an effective manager in everything I do. I was made to work in the NHS and I know this because I’ve never ever wanted to change my job or work elsewhere. It offers a very unique sense of job satisfaction.
Jenise Jarvis, midwife (pictured top right): So I’m more of a baby midwife compared to Arona having been a midwife for 14 years, but I’ve been at Newham Hospital for 17 years because this is where I trained. I remember the moment I decided I wanted to become a midwife was when in my teens I witnessed my best friend give birth to her son at Whipps Cross. Even though we were both very young she didn’t treat us any differently and she was just so incredibly kind. I still remember her today and make sure I show the same kindness to the mothers I see.
Nicola Turner, Team Leader at Barking Birth Centre (pictured top left): I had known from an early age I wanted to be in healthcare – probably from the moment I got my first doctor’s play kit, with which I made my brother sit for hours for whilst I took his fake blood pressure and heart rate! However, I knew I wanted to be a after watching a programme when I was around 11 or12, about a stand-alone midwifery unit in the New Forest. I wanted to empower women when they are at their most vulnerable. I still have to pinch myself today that I get to do that for a living in our own stand-alone unit, even if the scenery is slightly different here in Barking!
Please share some of the achievements you are most proud of
Arona Ahmed: During my time working at the Lindo Wing I helped establish antenatal clinics so women could receive care up to the point of birth rather than booking them in when the baby was literally being born. Introducing these clinics resulted in a marked difference in the way we provided care for our mothers and I’m very proud of the part I had to play.
A few years ago I worked at one of the poorest public hospitals in Riyadh in Saudia Arabia where I pushed and challenged the staus quo to get safeguarding pathways in place because we were unfortunately having a lot of children and mothers coming in that were abused. However, there was a reluctance to actively combat these kind of problems so fighting to get these pathways in place is definitely something I’m proud of.
Finally being a midwife to the Royal Family and supporting the safe delivery of both George and Charlotte is something I have to include as top of my achievement list!
Serena Fisher: One of my biggest achievements is definitely raising my twin sons and in particular instilling the confidence in them to be who they are. When one of them, aged 13, told me he was gay I was initially frightened for him, knowing that no matter how much I protect him there unfortunately are others who may not be so accepting. Now aged 18 he is so incredibly confident and content with who he is and I feel so proud to have played a part in his journey.
Jenise Jarvis: My biggest achievement is definitely being a mum. My journey into motherhood was actually pretty traumatic, starting with three second trimester miscarriages. Seeing the pathway from the other side has definitely influenced and guided the way I work as a midwife to address some of the struggles that mothers often face. I am also (unashamedly!) a Leader with Girl Guiding UK and Divisional Commissioner for Tower Hamlets. I’ve been in Girl Guiding since I was five. As part of my role I went to Bangladesh in 2001, just before I qualified and it taught me to not only respect and appreciate everyone’s culture but celebrate our differences.
Career-wise, I helped set up a midwifery presence on our Foetal Medicine Unit . Normally it was just a Consultant who is involved with high risk cases, however when I came in as Antenatal Screening Coordinator I saw this was lacking and with the support of my matron implemented a team of midwives who could join the team and work across screening and foetal medicine to provide continuity of care.
Nicola Turner: I am proud to be the midwife I am today and to have the privilege of serving as a Maternity Team Leader whilst still quite young in my midwifery career. When I moved to London from Devon to start my midwifery journey at 21, I didn’t think I’d even stay in London after my training, as I wasn’t sure I could cope with the high-pressured and fast-paced environment of Newham. Looking back over the last 5.5 years since I qualified. I am incredibly proud to say I did cope and have since lead two different teams, as well as buying a house, raising a tortoise and two miniature sausage dogs, and soon a little boy. Also, currently at 36 weeks pregnant, it seems a big achievement to even put my own socks on in the morning but I am incredibly proud to be able to bring my little man into the world and hopefully be as good of a mum as the other ladies definitely are!
What motivates you to make a difference to those around you, and a fairer world for all?
Arona Ahmed: What motivates me is being a mother and when I am able to truly balance my family life with my work life I am at my best. I ultimately want to set the best example to my children, as my mum did for me. Both my mum and my dad, who was a Christian minister, instilled in me the will to do good and show kindness to others. I always try to practice their teachings in my everyday life.
Serena Fisher: Like Arona my mum was my biggest motivator. She raised me and my six siblings on her own and is definitely the strongest woman I have every known. Despite going through hardship she was never bitter and never had a bad word to say about anyone. Her most important lesson which I still practice today is to listen and communicate to those we love and care for. In maternity we receive people from all walks of life with a range off different life experiences. I believe that encouraging this openness and willingness to listen in my team will continue to give them the same strength that my mother gave me.
Jenise Jarvis: Very similar to Arona, I was brought up in the Caribbean with Christian values of being kind, respectful and forgiving. My mum and my sister are my greatest motivators and being raised by them has definitely inspired how I treat others. In particular my 11-year-old daughter is at a place now where I need to be able to teach her when to stand up to people and when to let things go. That and the girls I see every other Saturday as part of my Girl Guiding role is what ultimately motivates me to ensure the way I behave and interact with others is something that in turn inspires them.
Nicola Turner: The results I see on a daily basis. Working in quite a small team, where we care for women from their initial booking, antenatal, intrapartum and then through the postnatal period, I am motivated by the responses that we receive from our patients on a daily basis and the relationships we build with them throughout their journey. So often, the staff in my team go above and beyond to ensure this journey is as close to what the women want as possible, including staying after their shifts or coming in on days off even though they have families at home. This both inspires and motivates me to do the same and to treat everyone with the kindness and respect that they all give out. I hope that I pass these lessons and morals to my son that my family and work colleagues have passed to me.
What positive changes would you like to see in the world for both men and women over the next decade?
Arona Ahmed: I am very lucky to have both a son and a daughter. I hope that I have instilled confidence in my children to go out into the world and do whatever and be whoever they want to be. In the same breath I hope that in ten years time when they come to choosing their careers they have access to the same opportunities to purse whatever it is they choose without prejudice.
Serena Fisher: Coming from a very old fashioned background I am of course pleased that women are being seen as capable of entering senior roles in the workplace equal to men. However, I sometimes worry that there is this false sense of belief that if a woman decides to hold a successful career she can’t also be a mother offering maternal love and support to her children. I hope in the next ten years we continue to support women to feel able and capable of inhabiting both roles.
Jenise Jarvis: I would like to see more support for young women who wish to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career paths and to break any belief that these subjects are intended mostly for men. Similarly, I want there to be more acceptance and support for boys who want to establish careers in cooking, baking and hospitality so that we break the stereotypes which I think are sometimes attached to some career paths. Ultimately I believe we should look at our children as individuals whose careers should be about individual choice as opposed to cultural obligation. Encouraging individual choice will lead to happier societies and happier societies will lead to a more peaceful world.
Nicola Turner: Following on from what Serena said on assisting women undertaking a career and being a mother offering maternal love and support to her children and understanding this is possible, I think it is also important this is something to consider for men also. Often, it is assumed that the role of the primary carer, particularly in the early years, is the women’s responsibility however in order to form secure loving relationships between fathers and their children, this role should be open to both of the parents. I hope that in the next decade, families can work equally to enable this for the benefit of the future generations.