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Nicole Pihema – Community Midwife / Northland

When talking with Nicole, we really wanted to get to know her – begin to share her story. Understand what drives her each day and what motivates her to continue providing quality midwifery care to her Whanau, her Whakapapa, her Community. With this in mind, we asked a few questions …

What’s your ‘story’ – what drives and motivates you each day to continue doing what you do?

At the core of what drives Nicole is her Whanau – this extends out to her Whakapapa and her Community in the beautiful rural location of Kawakawa in the Northland Region. Being a Community Midwife to Nicole is all about that connection with people – it’s something she lives and breathes.

Nicole feels that she is more self-driven in her professional life than her personal life, but the two evolve to make her who she is today.

Being a midwife is something Nicole had always wanted to be, partially inspired by her own experiences of becoming a mum in her early teens.

Before embarking on a career in midwifery, Nicole worked as an Operations Manager for a Tourism Company. This allowed her to travel around Australia, and although she enjoyed the work, it didn’t feed the soul. With her strong work ethos, she explored the idea of midwifery – and this became a reality for her, when she realised that she didn’t have to train to be a nurse, to complete her midwifery qualification.

Nicole studied in Australia and was able to hold down two jobs during her studies. She wanted to be the best midwife she could be, so took on additional practical hours by working as a Health Assistant on a Midwifery Ward in Australia. This experience provided her with some real life learning – nobody ever said no to Nicole wanting to provide support on the ward – making beds and doing all the other tasks she could take on, but gaining valuable knowledge and experience in the presence of midwives working closely with women and their families.

Nicole completed her Midwifery Qualification in 2009, and from here, went into a Core role, providing both primary and secondary care in Australia. She loved this work, but wanted to move back to her own community – to reconnect with her Whanau and provide care to women and their whanau in the Northland area.

On moving back to Aotearoa, Nicole worked full time at the Bay of Islands Maternity Unit which is a primary care unit. She started to build her own caseload out in the community after six months and has been a Community Lead Midwifery Carer Midwife since 2012 and has never looked back!

Nicole works in a group practice and in particular within a partnership with another midwife and they share the responsibility of care with all women under their care. It enables valuable time off and the ability to work in partnership with women and whanau with limited personal sacrifice. Alternating time on call and clinic/visit responsibilities supports an equitable balance between personal and professional commitments.

What are the biggest changes in midwifery you have seen and experienced?

Nicole loves taking on a challenge! She has always strived to be the best midwife she could be and provide quality midwifery care to her Whanau. Over time, she has stepped up into a number of leadership roles and has become more involved in the profession.

Nicole is a member of the CRG (Clinical Reference Group) for the MMPO and helps guide and drive new initiatives by bringing her experience and knowledge to the table. She was also a part of the Co-Design Team, working closely with NZCOM as they negotiate better outcomes for midwives.

One of the biggest changes she has noted is the travel – working rurally, you are always on the road! Doing this whilst feeling undervalued and fighting the good fight for pay equity is demanding. More is required of midwives, such as the new requirements under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 – the need to complete the CVCheck Safety Check Process every three years – yet with very little acknowledgement or financial benefit.

Because life is so busy, Nicole strongly believes that the communications – emails, newsletters, Midwifery News, etc. she receives from both the College and MMPO help her to stay connected. She believes that all midwives should opt in to receive the communications from the College and make the time to stay connected. The College and the MMPO are midwives strongest voice and their advocates.

How does the MMPO support you?

Nicole believes that the MMPO supports her to get paid what she’s entitled to claim for in a timely manner. She is thankful to receive a phone call or email if she hasn’t ticked the right box, which could potentially slow down a payment – or if a claim is rejected, for whatever reason, she feels secure knowing it’s being looked after, and in most cases, without her involvement. The MMPO takes the worry out of claiming.

The team is dedicated and always responds quickly with any queries she has.

Most recently, Nicole loved the Business Workshops – and wished to pass on a big thanks to Wayne for facilitating these and the College for recognising this need for community midwives. She only wishes she’d known this information a lifetime ago! As a direct result of the workshops, MMPO are now supporting Nicole to better manage her accounting and financial requirements through their new initiative with Xero – the online accounting software package, using a Midwifery Specific Chart of Accounts. Although Nicole has an accountant that she has a good relationship with, and she will continue working with, she knows this will save her both valuable time and money. Xero will provide full visibility of her earnings and expenses and support her with her GST payments and tax obligations.

Nicole wished to reiterate that the MMPO are with Midwives and have been since 1997. By supporting the MMPO, you are supporting midwifery in Aotearoa.