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It was a beautiful eye-opening moment for Tok Tobeck when, as a third year comprehensive nurse, she did some work experience in the delivery suite at Middlemore Hospital.
“I saw all these wonderful midwives working in, sometimes, frantic situations, but working with such calmness and confidence and they were so capable. I admired them and decided, ‘I want to be like that. I want to do that job’.”
Tok’s career as a midwife now spans close to 30 years including her role as one of the founders of The Aunties - a group of Pasifika midwives who provide mentoring and support for Pasifika student midwives.
Now based at the Papakura Birthing Unit, Tok (a core midwife) has pretty much seen and done it all in midwifery.
Two major changes she has noticed over the years have been new ethnicities in mothers coming to give birth and an increase in the number of scans women have. This means mothers and their babies are under a lot more ‘surveillance’ – she notes the use of the word surveillance in a positive sense.
“It’s a good thing. It’s all part of our objective of wanting to improve the outcomes for mother and baby and scanning helps us to do this,” says Tok.
Tok says a young woman considering midwifery as a career will have a fulfilling and rewarding career. She encourages anyone considering midwifery to get alongside a midwife and find out what the job is about.
This is where The Aunties came into play. She noticed young Pasifika midwifery students weren’t completing the course. The students were feeling isolated and often family commitments made studying difficult. The Aunties became their mentors and were able to guide the students from a professional and cultural perspective.
“The Papakura Birthing Unit has a great atmosphere. It’s a bit tired in places, but it has a nice homely feel and a great supportive team providing 24/7 birthing care,” she says.