International Midwives Day celebrated
May 04, 2017
Clarkson resident Arlene Ross has been a midwife for more than 40 years and at 61 says she has no plans to retire from Joondalup Health Campus (JHC), where she will celebrate International Midwives Day with colleagues on Friday, May 5.
According to patients Arlene’s nickname, ‘the booby whisperer,’ is a title that is well-deserved given she is an expert at helping new mums with breastfeeding.
Second-time mum Michelle Ferguson says Arlene helped her after the birth of her daughter nearly five years ago and has looked after her again this week after she gave birth to son, William.
“She’s just amazing,” says Michelle. “With our daughter she really helped and got her feeding – and it’s been so good having her look after us again this time around.”
Arlene has worked at JHC for more than a decade but has been a midwife since 1976 when at the age of 21 when she started her midwifery career in Scotland at Forth Park Maternity Hospital.
“Before that I had been a registered nurse in orthopaedics, but midwifery was something I always wanted to do,” she says. “It was a passion. It’s a privilege to be a midwife; it’s a privileged to be involved bringing new lives into the world.”
“I did hospital-based training and went on to spend 30 years as a midwife at Forth Park Maternity Hospital - the very hospital where I was born in 1955!” she says.
Moving to Australia in 2006 after she turned 50 the newly divorced Arlene wanted a fresh start and says she never looked back.
“My niece works here as a nurse at Joondalup Health Campus and so when I said I wanted to move out I had great support here – also there was a real shortage of midwives back then and Ramsay Health Care sponsored me.”
“The whole family life in Australia now, my mum is out here too - she turns 99 in August and is still going strong, when she was 92 we did a sky-dive together!”
Clinical Nurse Manager Sandra Flugge says Arlene constantly goes above and beyond.
“She’s even become a surrogate grandmother to a local mum who has no family support in Perth and who gave birth to twins nearly a decade ago – she pops in to see them after work and lends whatever support she can,” she said.
“At Christmas, Arlene dresses up as Santa and visits children and parents on the wards and gives out presents – she has been doing it every year since I’ve been here! She does this at her own expense and in her own time – she’s truly incredible, one of the most giving people I know.”
For Arlene, whose two grandchildren were also born at JHC, being part of the hospital and connecting with patients is something she treasures: “The best part here is the camaraderie, it’s a big family here – we’re very supportive to one another.”
Her words of wisdom for aspiring midwives: “Do the ground work; learn some life skills before going into midwifery. When you look after parents and their newborns it is a very intimate thing - you’re an intruder in the relationship between the parents and the baby, it’s almost like you have to be invited in. That’s easier to do when you’ve had a bit of life experience of your own.”
International Midwives Day recognises the important work of midwives and this week Joondalup Health Campus will host a special morning tea for the 173 midwives it employs.
Last financial year the hospital delivered close to 4500 babies – a jump of more than 80 per cent compared with five years ago.