In Conversation With... Liz Phillips our Diabetic Specialist Midwife
We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through their work, their interests or their hobbies outside work. We want to get to know them and share their stories.
This week we spoke to Liz Phillips from our Maternity team, after she was named registered midwife of the year in the awards held as part of our AHP, Nursing and Midwifery Conference on Tuesday (11 June). Liz has worked at our Trust for her entire career and even trained with us.
Lives: In Forest Gate with husband Phil, 47, and daughter Hannah, eight
And: The parents of the first baby Liz ever helped deliver on her own were so delighted with her they named the baby after her!
Congratulations on your award! How did it feel to win?
I found out the week before that I’d been nominated by my manager which was a surprise. It was really nice to win, especially because there are many deserving midwives in our Trust.
I didn’t actually make the conference to pick it up though as after two years of not being ill, the school rang to say my daughter was poorly so I had to go and pick her up. A colleague picked it up for me and it was lovely to receive the certificate and we also got a £50 high street voucher.
What’s your role at our Trust?
I’m our diabetic specialist midwife. It was a new role I helped develop with our high risk consultant in 2007 – very few trusts had a specialist midwife for diabetes then. We saw a need for someone with specialist knowledge to support pregnant women with diabetes, both those who have the condition long-term, and those that develop it during pregnancy.
Women with diabetes are at a higher risk of complications during their pregnancy. A lot of my work is running antenatal clinics working with these women to help them make lifestyle changes to be healthier for themselves and their babies. I support them right up to delivery so you really build a relationship, which make positive feedback, like receiving thank you cards and pictures of their babies, mean even more.
I also work closely with our midwives on the labour ward during complicated deliveries; review new mums on the postnatal ward, to look at whether their medication needs to be adjusted; and support our community midwives.
I’m not as involved in delivering babies anymore and while I would love to do it all, the numbers of women with diabetes is high and it takes a lot of work to get them healthy ahead of the birth, so there isn’t the time.
Tell us more about your career
I always wanted to be a nurse because I like to look after people. I grew up on a farm in Co. Monaghan and applied for nurse training in Ireland, but because nuns ran the training programmes, you were more likely to get in if you were in with the church, which I wasn’t.
A nurse I knew had trained in England and I asked where she went and applied there – I had a ten minute interview at Harold Wood Hospital and I was in. I think they could tell I was persistent from my previous applications at home, and that I was responsible as I’d been working on a farm mushroom picking part-time (I started when I was 11 to earn pocket money), and looking after the owners’ four kids when they were at work.
I went travelling for six months in Canada before I started my training, which I think helped me prepare for being away from my family.
I stayed in nurses’ accommodation at King George Hospital with lots of other students. There were 63 nurses in my group and 46 of them were Irish, so that helped with my homesickness.
I trained at Whipps Cross and Harold Wood and it was really eye-opening, meeting lots of people from different cultures. The area where I grew up was very rural and I went to a country school, so you’d never see anyone from other ethnic groups.
It was a shock moving over; when I went to Tesco for the first time I was overwhelmed as I’d never seen a shop so big. It was exciting to spread my wings. There was a lot of support and the Irish sisters really looked after you.
I worked in intensive care and found I enjoyed the high risk aspect of it. At Oldchurch Hospital I treated a lot of pregnant women who were very unwell and that’s what made me decide to become a midwife in 2000.
I had to do another 18 months training and it was difficult to be a student again. I enjoyed it more towards the end when we were let off the leash and able to do more.
A lot of my work is with women who are young and can become seriously unwell quite quickly, and I like that I can make a difference using my experience.
We hear there was an unexpected outcome when you helped deliver a baby on your own for the first time…
I remember my first delivery as a qualified midwife so well. It was on a night shift and the couple named the baby after me! I was really taken aback, and pleased.
After over two decades in England, do you miss home?
I never planned to stay in England – I told my mum I’d do my three year training and come home, but when I qualified I found I like working here, I like the NHS.
In Ireland you have public and private patients cared for in the same hospitals. I like that there’s no hierarchy here and everyone gets the same care.
I don’t feel homesick now as I’ve got my own family and I go back to Ireland every three months. I met my husband in an Irish pub in Ilford (he’s English). Irish pubs here are busier than at home, but there’s not the same sense of community and everyone knowing one another.
What do you like getting up to when you’re not at work?
I like to drink a bit of wine, spend time with my family and I do Pilates.