By: 10 April 2024
Midwife in Focus Q&A with Emily Winup

Emily Winup is a Lecturer in Midwifery at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). She was just 23 when she decided to leave her career in the film industry, as a script and continuity supervisor on film sets, and take on the new challenge of studying midwifery at ARU. Working through the pandemic and taking a keen interest in students on the wards, Emily decided to return to the university she trained at to teach the next generation of midwives. Emily hopes to inspire people to think positively about changing career and entering the profession.


OGPN: What drove you to change your career and choose midwifery?

EW: I remember sitting on a break during a night shoot in the middle of winter and talking to some of the crew about where we saw ourselves in the future. I realised that I wanted to feel like I was making a difference and that, although working in film was fun and rewarding, I needed a vocation that I could help others through.

I was in touch with a friend from my home town whose mum happened to be a midwife and a lecturer at ARU, my local university, and she persuaded me to apply. I already had a keen interest in health care and medicine, and midwifery felt like the obvious choice when I considered the different occupations I could study.


OGPN: What’s the best part of your job?

EW: I love to teach some of the more complex conditions of pregnancy. When I was working on the wards, the place I felt most at home was antenatal triage. When I teach these subjects in my lectures, I love seeing the students grasp the new concepts they are learning. You see the information click into place, especially when they apply the knowledge they have learnt from practice. I remember feeling the same when I was sat in those lessons myself and I feel very privileged to teach these subjects now.


OGPN: … and the worst?

EW: I think the worst part of the job has to be the marking! Although the hardest part is when you have to give a lower mark to a student despite the fact you can see they have really tried. ARU staff work incredibly hard to support students to reach their potential, so when it all comes together and the students excel in their exams or on their essays, it is really rewarding to see them achieve their goals.


OGPN: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

EW: In the last year I have been lucky enough to welcome my first child into the world. Being on the other side of maternity care was an eye-opening experience and it will definitely impact my practice in the future. We chose to deliver our son at the hospital I trained and worked at, which is currently training some of my students from ARU. At different times during my pregnancy and birth I was fortunate enough to be cared for by some of my past students.  I could not have been prouder of them and the midwives they have become. It was a definite highlight for me to know that I had even the smallest impact on their journey to where they are today.


OGPN: What would be your best advice for young people thinking of applying to train as a midwife?

EW: I would definitely recommend reading around the subject, and, if possible, talk to people who work in healthcare. There are always midwives and midwifery students present at university open days, so if you don’t know anyone personally you can ask. Birth is often portrayed in the media and in TV shows in a very dramatic and, at times, unrealistic way. It is sensationalised for entertainment, and this can give some students a false impression on what it might be like to be a midwife in real life.


OGPN: Over the past few years, it is clear that the healthcare industry has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, what has been the greatest impact within your work and how has it affected trainee midwives, birthing mothers and new parents?

EW: When the pandemic hit the UK, I was still working as a clinical midwife in the NHS and witnessed first-hand the impact COVID-19 had on both new families and my colleagues. It was a really difficult time, full of a lot of fear for everyone. As guidelines constantly changed, so too did the care we needed to provide and the precautions we had to put in place to try and keep new mothers and babies safe. I think the most difficult part was implementing rules which impacted on the potential bonding of mothers and fathers with their newborns.


OGPN: What’s next for you? Are you currently involved in any research or learning new developments?

EW: I will soon return from maternity leave and I am looking forward to getting stuck back in to teaching my modules to the next intake of students. I am excited to be involved in current research being undertaken at the university, which is exploring the impact of hyperemesis gravidarum on childbearing women. This was a pregnancy complication I experienced personally and I welcome the opportunity to explore it from an academic perspective.


OGPN: Are you planning to attend any training events in 2024 aimed at midwives or new parents?

EW: When I return from maternity leave I will be jumping straight into planning for the new academic year that commences in September. I’m looking forward to meeting the new students and getting back to the world of midwifery again.


OGPN: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

EW: If I am honest, I would probably tell myself that I will have to write a lot more essays before I finally reach my dream job, but it will be worth it! Although I love learning, writing essays has always been challenging for me as I am a chronic procrastinator. I often like reminding the students of this when they are approaching their assessment deadlines as they often seem convinced that lecturers love writing essays, but nothing could be further from the truth for me!


OGPN: How do you think the future looks in the field of midwifery and what are your predictions for 2024 and the next decade?

EW: I think it is easy to look at the challenges in midwifery at the moment and sometimes feel pessimistic. Like many services across the NHS, maternity care is having to face issues around staff recruitment and retention while balancing increasing pressures in hospitals. However, I can honestly say that on a daily basis, I get to work with, and talk to, passionate and focused individuals who are excited about joining the workforce and want to make a difference to women and their families, as well as the wider NHS. I think that with enough support and encouragement, these young people will go on to do great things in the profession, whether clinically or academically. It is the job of us all, both in healthcare and society in general, to embrace and respect new ideas and advancements. By nurturing and supporting new midwives joining trusts across the UK, it could make a huge positive impact on the profession and could lead to some exciting changes in the not-too-distant future.