Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Alana Divito

Alana Divito

“Even in the murkiest, muddiest, dark waters, the Lotus flower will still bloom.”- Alana Divito

Alana Divito is a Midwife working in Causeway Hospital Maternity Unit, Coleraine and within the Northern Trust’s Lotus Midwifery Team.

She always knew she was a ‘people person’ who enjoyed making people feel better, and after receiving excellent care herself, she knew she wanted to give something back but wasn’t sure how.

In this week’s Nightingale Blog, Alana tells her story – what influenced a move from communications to midwifery, her love and passion for the role, opportunities as a midwife and within the Global Leadership Development Programme, and why the team chose ‘Lotus’ as a name, which is associated with inner strength, courage, optimism, purity, longevity, enlightenment and rebirth.

Hello my name is Alana Divito.  I am a Band 6 Midwife working in Causeway Maternity Unit and within the new continuity implementation programme, Lotus Midwifery Team.

My professional career started in marketing, and communications after completing a BSc Honours Degree in Public Relations.  I worked in management teams within the hospitality sector and the front facing customer engagements were always the most fulfilling elements of these jobs.  I knew quite early on that this career was not what I had anticipated, and it would not provide the job satisfaction I envisioned for the future.  This was hugely impacted by the birth of my first daughter, Layla, in 2010.  I also had the added influence from my mum, Mary, who is a semi-retired nurse and my two sisters, Carla and Roisin who are both social workers.  I knew I was a ‘people person’, who enjoyed making people feel better, and after receiving excellent care as a service user, I knew I wanted to give something back but was not sure how.

After my second daughter, Maria, was born in 2013, I had a voluntary role supporting local mothers in my community with breastfeeding. This supportive and caring role enlightened my vision for the future and I applied to study Midwifery at Queens University Belfast.  After my first day out in community placement in Ballymoney, I remember driving home with a massive smile, knowing deep within my soul, this was the right path for me.  I still feel this way today.

I trained within the Northern Trust and took up my first post as a Band 4 Maternity Support Worker prior to my registration as a Band 5 Midwife in Causeway Maternity Unit in 2017.  I fell in love with Causeway, not only because of the endless support and team camaraderie, but also because my ethos and approach to care aligned with the values of the unit.  I have worked within the hospital setting for just over three years and have just recently embarked on a new role within an integrated Continuity of Care Programme, the first of its kind in the Northern Trust.  This is a pilot programme for 12 months and has a focus on trust and partnership.  It includes a team of midwives supporting a group of mothers right through pregnancy, birth and beyond, with a named midwife for each mother.  This has really reinforced my passion for midwifery and high standards of evidence-based care.  I love that as a midwife, you have the opportunity to share such a life-changing event with women and their families, but you also have the responsibility to influence practice, to ensure their experience is safe, positive and fulfilling.  Leadership is central to this continued advocacy and protection of childbirth and women’s rights in maternity services.  I have always understood the importance of the additional responsibilities intertwined in the role of the midwife, not just in the clinical maternity settings but also within a political and societal context.  I was nominated for the Global Leadership and Development Programme (GLDP) as I met the criteria and have shown leadership within my own role.  I have a continued interest in service development and hold a strong belief in building robust relationships in order to reflect the importance of midwifery input in the wider health care context.

Personal development and growth

The Global Leadership and Development Programme outlined several objectives, some of which have been more important in my personal development and growth.  I wanted to have the opportunity to develop and build confidence in public speaking.  So far to date I have been fulfilling this objective well considering the massive impact COVID-19 has had.  Luckily in March, before lockdown, I attended the Northern Ireland Practice Education Council Conference and was able to contribute alongside Catherine Hannaway, Global Health Consultant, who is leading the global programme.  I have also been involved in making a video with the Midwifery Officer, Dale Spence from the Department of Health, which highlighted what maternity service provision looked like during COVID-19, to help reassure our pregnant and new mothers.  I was also speaking alongside Catherine Hannaway and Caroline Diamond, our Head of Midwifery and Gynaecology at the joint Royal College of Midwifery and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Annual conference, which was held virtually on Thursday 5 November 2020.  These experiences have helped build my confidence and articulate effectively key messages to a wide audience.

Having had the opportunity to meet Professor Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland and Robin Swann, Health Minister earlier this year, was a bonus especially as everything is now held virtually.  These face to face and indeed the virtual interactions with national leaders have showcased to me the utmost dedication, resilience, and knowledge, which make up the backbone of the entire health service in Northern Ireland.  These influential leaders have also shown a steady commitment to the progression of young nursing and midwifery leaders.  They shine the light on the significant role we play in the health and wellbeing of our nation.  This has never been more evident than during this pandemic.  I even got to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on midwifery in a global context with Midwifery Officer, Fran McConville, from the World Health Organisation, during a Global Leadership Development Programme Zoom meeting.  This opportunity has also influenced and shaped my vision for who I am as a midwife.  It reminded me to never forget the importance and impact of my role as a midwife, despite the ongoing challenges COVID-19 brought.

I have also been involved in policy writing within our new Continuity of Carer Team, again a key objective of the global programme.  I am also currently partaking in the NHS 360 Leadership Appraisal which is an excellent opportunity for my development and self-reflection.  As part of the programme, we have also been fortunate to have the opportunity to go on global learning visits.  I was all set for Bali in June to attend the Triennial International Confederation of Midwives Conference.  This was, not only a bucket list goal for me personally, but also a massive opportunity to learn about midwifery in a global context and a platform to engage and network with global midwifery leaders.  Although this event was postponed this year, I feel I have been able to gain invaluable experiences and meet my own personal objectives closer to home.  Positively, the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the GLDP and the Nightingale Challenge has been extended into 2021, who knows even Bali may be on the cards yet again.

At a local level, the engagements and learning from key leaders thus far has been hugely beneficial and very insightful.  Within the Trust, I have had a Zoom meeting with Innovation and Quality Improvement Lead, Gill Smith.  Gill was very supportive and encouraging which has hugely helped me focus and plan my quality improvement project.  I plan to complete my Level 2 training this year.  I have also built my knowledge base and understanding of quality improvement, policy making and the importance of data collection from fellow colleagues on both the Global Leadership Development Programme and Northern Nightingales Programme.  We regularly Zoom with Nursing Now participants from across the world which keeps a ‘live’ update of challenges faced by young nursing and midwifery leaders across the world during the pandemic.  These interactions on a global scale help us appreciate and reflect on how robust and safe our health care services are.  This professional networking has re-energised me and influenced positive thinking on many occasions throughout this year.

Invaluable mentoring

Mentorship has been a key element of the global programme and I am very lucky to have invaluable mentoring from Caroline Diamond, Head of Midwifery within the Northern Trust.  I have also had continued support and guidance from our Consultant Midwife, Shona Hamilton and Lead Midwife in Causeway, Barbara Strawbridge as well as the wider midwifery team.  I have always been supported to embrace all opportunities this programme has given me, even during the difficult changes during COVID-19.  For me, this reflects the exemplary midwifery leadership within the Northern Trust.  I feel Caroline has always shown compassionate and collective leadership, ensuring that women and their families are at the centre of decision-making, but also balancing the expectations and challenges faced by the staff who provide the hands-on care.  She always identifies the potential in those she leads and creates a high-spirited team ethos.  I found this style of leadership to be extremely advantageous during the initial COVID-19 surge plans when the entire Causeway Maternity Team was redeployed.  She is a role model for many in our Trust.

As a team we trusted in her leadership and she ensured we were supported and listened to during a difficult transition due to redeployment.  Caroline has also used direct approaches to ensure that the safety of all women and staff was maintained to the highest standard.  This has taught me a leadership style is not set in stone for one person but in fact a true leader is fluid but cohesive, adapting with confidence to the challenge which presents.  Gill Smith is another great leader who I have learned a lot from in a short space of time, her passion and visionary approach spurs enthusiasm and pride in what we can do as midwifery leaders within our individual scope of practice.

Redeployment has been one of the greater challenges this year, yet one of the biggest learning opportunities for me personally.  Change is sometimes not easy, nor expected.  Not long after moving Causeway Maternity Services to Antrim, we had a Zoom session as part of our Global Leadership Development Programme which had a session named ‘Managing Change and Transition’, led by Clive Hook, Leadership Development Consultant Director from Clearworth.  This was extremely beneficial as it helped me reflect on my thoughts and emotions surrounding redeployment but also appreciate others too.  Everyone adapts and adjusts to change differently; we must remain compassionate and supportive to those who find it more difficult.  Change exposes us to learning opportunities and encourages mindful reflection on our own practice and the practice of others.  Shared learning is built on two-way communication and developing strong relationships for the future is paramount.  Without the personal development and experiences gained from my participation on the global programme, I would have found redeployment and the continual change during COVID-19 a lot harder to navigate.

On a personal level, my family have always helped me remain calm and focused, well maybe not home-schooling so much.  But seriously, to see my kids outside playing so much, less screen time, more genuine laughter and just enjoying being at home with us has been worth the sacrifices made in other areas.  I suppose, it reminds us that family and our loved ones will always be our best and most important support network.  I have enjoyed yoga practice as I feel it helps create balance and wellbeing for both the body and mind.  I regularly listen to TED talks and e-books, both related to midwifery and other personal choices which help me prepare for my work ahead and equally wind down afterwards.  Finally, starting a new team and working within an entirely new care model has really helped me recharge and focus on my own values and beliefs as a midwife.  Job satisfaction heightens happiness and helps to avoid stress and burnout.  Our new Continuity of Carer Team is named; Lotus Team and has been so appropriate in these uncertain months, as reassuringly, even in the murkiest, muddiest, dark waters the Lotus flower will still bloom.

Alana Divito, Midwife, Causeway Hospital

Alana is one of five Northern Trust staff participating in the Northern Ireland Global Leadership Development Programme which is part of the Nightingale Challenge launched by Nursing Now, to enable the next generation of nurses and midwives to play a bigger role in multi-disciplinary teams, working together to improve health and influence policy.  The Nightingale Challenge encourages healthcare employers to support at least 20 nurses and midwives to develop their leadership skills during the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. 

@NHSCTrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward
Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House
Kirsty Wallace, Staff Nurse, Antrim Area Hospital
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal, Antrim Area Hospital
Laura Smith, Midwife, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
Mandy Young, Deputy Sister, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim
Nerell Browne, Practice Development Nurse, REaCH Team, Northern Trust
Chantelle Crowe, Deputy Ward Manager, Causeway Hospital
Michelle Angelone, Community Learning Disability Nurse
Catherine Middleton, Rehabilitation in Mental Health, Holywell Hospital
Lauren Campbell-Withers, Staff Nurse, Whiteabbey Hospital
Lindsay McNinch, A4, Respiratory Medicine, Antrim Area Hospital
Rebecca Leckie, Staff Nurse, Ward A3 Respiratory, Antrim Area Hospital
Bronagh Smiley, District Nursing Sister, Ballymena
Ashleigh Pullins, District Nursing Sister, Larne Integrated Care Team
Brinin Anderson, Staff Nurse, C5, Surgical Division, Antrim Area Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

9th November 2020

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