The Challenge of Change

Posted by Deborah McBain on April 20, 2020
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Season 9 Episode 4.
Deb blog post s9e4
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.

No, the heavens do not always protect. They can rain challenges upon us instead of blessings. But how do we know when a challenge may turn into a blessing? As Sister Julienne contemplates the change being faced by Nonnatus House with the threat of demolition, she contemplates what any good leader must contemplate. How will she approach the threat? She does not ignore it. She innovates. She decides to make the midwifery practice more relevant by incorporating the responsibility of teaching “junior doctors”. As someone who was born and raised in the hometown of Henry Ford, just outside of Detroit, I know innovation when I see it.

During the 6th season of Call the Midwife, I discussed another midwifery leader and the result of her innovative approach to keeping our Detroit based midwifery practice relevant. Here is an excerpt from that entry: “When opportunity presented itself….., Cathy planted herself and her practice partners in that fertile soil to grow into one of the largest and most consolidated midwifery practices in the country. The alliance with the medical team is so complete that most Henry Ford Labor and Delivery staff from nursing to medicine cannot imagine functioning without the midwives.”

When I joined the Henry Ford Midwifery practice, I knew that one of my responsibilities would be teaching resident physicians. I recognized the innovative nature of it. I was excited but a bit skeptical. I was coming from a very different institutional culture. My original midwifery position was within an era and environment that did not regard the input by those outside of the physician hierarchy. Although midwifery was and is an integral part of Britain’s health care system, it was illegal in many states including Michigan until my early adulthood.

Coming from a conservative “old boys club” environment into a more egalitarian one was eye opening. I would not have suspected how inspiring being involved with resident physician education could be. When teaching a concept or demonstrating technique, one must be very clear and confident. I became a better midwife because of that. I could not have guessed that taking on newly minted medical students and helping shape them into compassionate, mature human physicians would become one of the favorite parts of my career. Each resident in the OB/Gyn specialty was with us for four years. We got to know each other well.

Henry Ford Hospital attracts resident physicians from widely diverse cultures and backgrounds. My exposure to these cultures, foods and customs brought richness to my human understanding. In turn, my professional skills and life lessons garnered respect from the young doctors who sought my counsel. I earned the affectionate title of “mid-mom”. I treasure the memories of the kind, smart, wonderful professionals whose lives I touched for a short time.

It is not news to professional teachers that teaching is both challenging and rewarding. With schools now closed, I suspect that many parents who are teaching their little ones at home, are also finding renewed clarity and confidence in some basic skills, like I did when I started supervising residents. I can’t help but feel excited again by the innovation I see, as our country moves through the crisis of the coronavirus. With its cracks exposed, our culture is like an old building poised for demolition. Where will the innovations take us? Will the building come down, be repaired or will something newer and better arise in its place? To the Nonnatus midwives or to anyone facing change and starting anything new and innovative, I pass along the following guidance:

Human interaction is complicated. Change is challenging. Be ready for missteps, misunderstandings and misbehaviors.. The process will likely feel chaotic, uncomfortable and have unexpected manifestations. Prepare to adapt and adjust. Have faith in the blessings of innovation.

Get Another Take: Recommended Call the Midwife Recaps 
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About the Author

Deborah McBain is a former certified nurse-midwife and practiced full-scope midwifery in Metro Detroit for 20 years. For 23 years before her midwifery career she practiced as an RN in medical/surgical, obstetrical and neonatology units. During her career, in addition to her midwifery practice, she taught childbirth education, led menopause support groups and mentored nursing, midwifery and medical students and residents.