Securing two undergraduate degrees is something that is considered a fairly rare achievement in academia, especially in two courses that are the polar opposite of one and other. Ailsa Gaskill-Jones first graduated from The University of Manchester in 1996 in American History and Society before returning 15 years later to study Midwifery. Find out below the amazing things she has achieved since donning the UoM cap and gown for the second time…
I first graduated from the University of Manchester in 1996 as a fresh-faced 21-year-old with a degree in American History and Society with no real plan on what I wanted to do with my life. Fast forward 15 years, one wedding, three children and an established career in Human Resources and I was back in Manchester embarking on what I had realised was my vocation, a career in midwifery.
I commenced my midwifery studies at Manchester in September 2011. When I reflect on my time as a midwifery student there is no getting away from the fact that a midwifery degree is not for the faint-hearted, but then again neither is life as a practising midwife. It’s tough, emotional, requires resilience and organisation, however, it is ultimately incredibly rewarding.
Since qualifying, I recognise the quality of the teaching at the University of Manchester, the robust curriculum and the great support from academic staff were hugely important in ensuring I was able to meet the demands of the course. As a result, I was very proud to successfully achieve a first-class degree in Midwifery in 2014.
On qualifying as a midwife, I initially worked at Wythenshawe Hospital, taking the opportunity to remain at the trust where I trained to consolidate my skills and knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Wythenshawe but in 2017 I decided to spread my wings and gain experience in a completely different model of care by joining One to One Midwives, a case loading model of maternity care with continuity at its core.
Most of the highlights of my midwifery career to date have come while working for One to One Midwives – in particular the opportunity this model has provided for me to really get to know the women and families for whom I am providing care. Looking after a woman from six weeks pregnant to six weeks postnatal and everything in between is just so rewarding. It is amazing to see what the impact this midwife/mother relationship can have on women’s experience of pregnancy and birth. It really is a privilege to care for women in this model of care, and don’t even get me started on the amazing home births I have attended since joining One to One!
More recently I have taken on a full-time safeguarding role at One to One Midwives ensuring those most vulnerable women and families in our care are supported in the most appropriate way. This is a challenging role, but it is an aspect of maternity care about which I feel incredibly passionate. My belief is it is often these women who benefit the most from the continuity model of care.
Through my midwifery studies and subsequent experience since qualifying, I have developed a real interest in the public health role of the midwife. This idea of improving health and wellbeing has become a real driver of mine and something which I have broadened into other aspects of my life. Since 2011 (just as I started my midwifery studies – a story for another blog, for another day) I have been a Town Councillor in Winsford, Cheshire and as part of this I took on the role as lead for health and wellbeing.
Subsequently, in 2015 I established the Wellbeing Winsford Hub which brings together partners from across the town and provides an opportunity for organisations to collaborate on initiatives and projects which focus on improving the health and wellbeing of residents.
I would say (and I know it is a terrible X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing cliché) the route in to, and career in, midwifery is definitely a journey. There are bumps in the road, some wrong turns, a few stalled engines and there have been times, particularly during my training, when I wondered whether it was a trip I wanted to complete. However, the subsequent rewards mean I wouldn’t change anything. Through my course and career, I have made friends for life, am doing a job I love and a job which I feel is making a positive difference to women and their families.
I am excited about the future as I commence a Midwifery Masters in September with the long-term ambition to develop a career in midwifery education. In the meantime, I have recently been appointed Mayor of Winsford for 2019-2020 which will definitely keep me out of mischief and most importantly allow me the opportunity to further focus on my passions, improving health and wellbeing and supporting the most vulnerable in my community.