Vanessa Watkins is a PhD candidate (degree awarded, pending conferral) whose thesis focused on interprofessional collaboration and shared decision making in maternity care in Victoria. She has worked in healthcare for over 30 years, holding roles in nursing and midwifery clinical and professional leadership. Vanessa has also contributed to organisational, state-wide and national initiatives in both project officer and expert advisory roles. She is both a Registered Nurse and a Registered Midwife and continues to balance research and clinical work in both professions.
What does the year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you?
It is recognition of the unique (and often unseen) contribution of the nursing and midwifery profession to the health and wellbeing of the communities in which we live. 2020 has been a year of challenge to healthcare systems worldwide, but nurses and midwives have calmly adapted to the changing circumstances and stepped up to ensure people feel safe and cared for, even during personal adversity.
Over the course of your life what has been your proudest accomplishment?
Completing my PhD! (oh, and of course being mother to two fabulously talented teenage children).
Over the course of your career what has been your proudest accomplishment?
Supporting women experiencing critical illness in ICU to remain in close contact with their babies and continue their choice to breastfeed. A woman, for whom I had provided midwifery care while critically unwell in ICU, attended the hospital for a medical appointment a few weeks later and recognised my voice. She grabbed my arm and said, “Were you the midwife that expressed my breastmilk when I was unwell? Because of you, I don’t have PTSD. I have been able to breastfeed and to bond with my baby. My body failed me, and I almost lost my life, but I can still be a mum and my baby is thriving”.
What did you want to be when you were younger? And when did you decide to become a nurse or midwife?
When I was eight years old, I wanted to be a midwife and have six children. I then became fascinated by the hospital ships during the Falklands conflict, and decided that being a trauma nurse was pretty cool too.
What inspires you to do your job?
People. I take a couple of clinical nursing or midwifery shifts a month to keep me professionally motivated and to maintain my clinical skills. I love providing and influencing clinical care provision, and am proud to be considered part of both the clinical and academic nursing and midwifery workforce.
What got you interested in becoming a researcher in the area of nursing and midwifery; what do you hope to achieve with your research?
I was frustrated with the lack of clarity around midwifery scope of practice, professional autonomy, and the process of woman-centred collaborative decision-making for maternity care in Victoria. I helped develop a successful clinical project to support effective collaboration between women, midwives, and doctors, but soon realised that the word ‘collaboration’ means different things to different people. I then set about exploring the concepts of collaboration and decision-making in maternity care for my PhD thesis, in an endeavour to develop a shared understanding of these concepts, and to identify the barriers and enablers to effective collaboration and shared decision-making in clinical practice.