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Alumni Story: An Interview with Jean Doherty Research Midwife

Thursday, 7 September, 2023

News Item Alumni JD

Jean Doherty is a Registered Midwife working in the National Maternity Hospital. Jean commenced her BSc Midwifery in National Maternity Hospital and UCD in 2010 as a mature student and qualified as a midwife in 2014 with a first class honours. Jean then completed her MSc (Research) in 2019 with a Participatory Action Research study exploring Burnout among Midwives in Ireland. 

In the National Maternity Hospital, Jean worked in the Labour & Birthing Unit then went on to work as a Research Midwife and has maintained that position since 2017. Jean also retains her clinical experience working in one of the National Maternity Hospitals satellite antenatal clinics once a week.

What led you to study Midwifery?

Having my own children. Midwifery wasn’t on my radar growing up. I worked in Marketing for several years and was a director of a small company when I became pregnant on my first child. I had two wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences thanks to the superb care I received from the Domino (Community Midwifery) team in the National Maternity Hospital. From there, my passion grew.

What advice would you give someone considering Midwifery?

For me, Midwifery is the most rewarding job anyone could have. Within Midwifery, there are several career pathways a person can pursue, which keeps it interesting. Be prepared for hard work, though. Women deserve the best care and a chance to have a positive pregnancy and birthing experience.

What is your fondest memory of your time in UCD?

My proudest moment was winning an Achievement of Excellence Award for my GPA in my second year of the degree. I never did well in school, so this award was proof that my passion and hard work was paying off. However, my fondest memory in general was the relationships I built over the four years of my degree. Coming in as a mature student, I didn’t expect that making friends was going to be part of my academic journey. However, the dynamics within my group was phenomenally positive and I have made many friends for life.

What is your proudest moment of your career to date?

The first time I saw my name in print as an author of an academic paper. I believe that there is no point in doing research unless findings are shared and evidence based practice can be maintained and improved year on year. It took me a while to realise that even though I’m no longer working in the labour and birthing unit, disseminating research findings from projects I work on with my clinical and academic colleagues is my way to make a positive impact, indirectly, to pregnant and birthing women and new mothers.

What have been the most challenging aspects of your career?

I think in Midwifery, in general, the biggest challenges we face are when helping families through their journey of loss. I have not helped a family deal with grief for a number of years, due to my position at present. My answer to this question is very specific to my own personal circumstances. Due to a health issue, I am no longer able to work in a ward environment or assist someone in their birthing journey, which gave me such joy and fulfillment. However, I love caring for women during their pregnancy and preparing them as much as possible for birth and beyond, in the clinic. I also get a huge satisfaction researching different elements of Midwifery practice. 

Have you found midwifery practice to have changed much since you qualified?

I have seen that the increase in Advanced Midwife Practitioner and Clinical Midwife Specialist roles within the maternity setting increases midwifery autonomy, job satisfaction, continuity of care for women and increases career opportunities for midwives.

Has ongoing professional development helped your career?

It certainly has. Completing my MSc by Research has given me much more knowledge and confidence when undertaking Midwifery-led research projects for the hospital. I have a much bigger understanding of research methodologies and evidence-based practice and have been given a lot of autonomy when working with colleagues to design, execute and disseminate findings from the projects I’ve worked on, which have definitely bridged the research-practice gap in the National Maternity Hospital. I must add, though, that I also receive a huge amount of support and guidance from my superiors and colleagues in the hospital as well as our academic partners in UCD SNMHS.

What are your aspirations for the midwifery profession going forward?

I would love to see more continuity of Midwifery care everywhere. From the research that I have conducted, ‘relationships’ play a major role in women’s positive experiences of pregnancy, birth and confidence as a new parent. If I had a magic wand, I would love to see community midwifery teams attached to all maternity units, more self-employed community midwives, more midwife-led antenatal clinics and midwife home-visits, postnatally, for all women.

In your career and/or personal life, who have been the most inspiring or helpful mentors/advisors that you’ve had to date?

It’s hard to name just one person within the hospital who has been the most inspiring. Both as a student and newly qualified Midwife, several Midwives and Midwife managers inspired me, taught me and supported me. I was often in awe of the passion and positive energy some of them displayed when teaching their less experienced colleagues and when supporting the women in their care. Assoc. Prof. Barbara Coughlan was instrumental when I commenced my position as a research assistant and remains a wealth of wisdom and patience when advising me on research designs or data analysis methods etc.

In terms of my BSc and MSc journeys in UCD, Dr. Denise O’Brien (Head of Subject Midwifery at the time), not only guided me to an extremely successful MSc, but also a series of three publications on the findings of my study for my MSc. Dr. O’Brien has been the driving force and energy I needed as well as a sounding board and a friend.

What do you do to relax? Tell us a bit about your current life, family and hobbies.

Besides pilates, I love nature - walks in the woods and the odd swim in the sea. Keeping in touch with family and friends is very important to me also. A cuppa, a chat and a couch are my idea of a good night out. And trying to get the attention of my two teenagers is always fun!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t live with regrets. Don’t be in a position where you regret something you didn’t do. Do it! If you do it, even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll learn something from it or get something out of it. If you don’t do it, you’ll get nothing, you’ll learn nothing, you’ll miss out.

Contact the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems

Health Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4
T: +353 1 716 6488 | Location Map(opens in a new window)