Imagine finding your passion in life, making a successful career out of it, and helping make the world a better place while you do it. That’s exactly what’s happened for Tammy O’Connor. And having recently graduated from her master’s in midwifery at Charles Sturt University (CSU) she’s having a bigger impact than ever.
Tammy wants all Australian women, wherever they live, to get the midwifery care they deserve. And her initiatives are helping extend essential services into rural and remote communities in New South Wales.
How did you come to study at CSU?
“I have actually done three qualifications with CSU. I started with a Bachelor of Nursing. Then I enrolled into the Graduate Diploma of Midwifery and then, later, in a Master of Midwifery. I did that over a number of years, as I have little children, but I graduated two years ago. And I have been invited to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony at CSU in Dubbo.
“I was originally accepted into another university for an undergraduate degree. But I really wanted to study at CSU in Dubbo where everyone I loved and knew was. So I actually deferred the other offer for 12 months. I worked as a teacher’s aide for a year and applied again to CSU. And I was offered a place on the nursing course. Nursing was actually my second preference – but as soon as I started my nursing degree, I instantly knew I wanted to be a midwife. When I got to do my first practical work placement at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, I knew that’s the area where I wanted to work.”
What made you want to study midwifery at postgraduate level?
“I had my first child before going on to the graduate diploma. That course is linked to what’s called the MidStART program [Midwifery Student Application for Recruitment and Training]. You’re employed as a student midwife for 12 months and you do your studies over that year. So your employment is related to the course. You have a certain amount of expectations and clinical competencies that you have to get signed off during your 12 months; you have to get 30 births, for example. Plus, you have to follow 15 women through from early pregnancy to their postnatal period. So there are a lot of clinical experiences that are related to your employment. It’s a great program. I started working as a registered midwife and developed a very strong passion for the birthing unit and labouring women. That’s definitely what I love the most.
“I went on to have two more children after I graduated as a midwife. I always knew that I would go onto to complete more study, as I felt I was not finished.
“I’ve always wanted to do my master’s. I’m someone who believes in higher education. And going into that level, it was done online, so you could do it at your own pace, at your own time, to fit in with whatever you’ve got going on at home. I had three little children at that time and I would put the kids to bed at night and then sit down and study. So I really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to do the postgraduate courses online.”
How did your degree change the game for you?
“When I applied for my current position as a midwifery consultant for the LHD [local health district], a master’s was a requirement for the position, so to be able to say I was graduating from mine in three months definitely helped me secure that role. The master’s degree does open the door to those higher level positions.
“Plus, the writing abilities I developed throughout my university studies have been incredibly useful in my career. I still use them in writing briefs and policies. I think developing really good writing habits at an early stage during your education is very important.
“In my job there’s a number of different areas that I focus on. So at the moment I’ve been working to develop a new model of care for rural and remote communities. Essentially, we’re putting midwifery care and midwifery services back into the local communities, so women aren’t having to travel for all of their care. At this stage, we’re in about eight communities. Not all of them have their own community-based midwives. For the ones that don’t, we have an outreach maternity service that sits within my team and they do fly-in-fly-out clinics, or drive to these locations where they are the only midwives in the town.
“I was very honoured to win the 2018 Anthea Kerr Award at the Premier’s Award for Public Service ceremony for the rural and remote model of care, which was a complete shock. But it’s great recognition of not just myself, but of what the outreach team is doing. They’re just achieving so many great outcomes for women; it’s really inspirational and a great team to be a part of.
“I also do a lot of policy writing, we do some education and we also provide clinical consultation for high-risk women, or for midwives who are struggling or need a bit of assistance.”
What’s next for you?
“Personally, my next step is more study. I’m looking at maybe doing a Master of Business Administration or something like that just to gain a broad spectrum of leadership, management, finance and HR education. But on the midwifery side of things, we want to be able to extend the outreach service across the whole of the LHD. There’s a number of locations out there that don’t have access to a midwife. So we’ll keep working to improve access to services for regional women. I believe it’s a basic human right for all women to have access to a midwife during their pregnancy, regardless of their location.
“I could talk about midwifery for ever. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and I encourage anyone out there who has the desire to be a midwife to follow their dreams and to do it, because it is so worth it. It’s such a privilege to be a midwife, to be able to work with a family and a woman during that time.”
How are you going to change the game?
When you graduate from CSU, you are brilliantly positioned to make your mark in your career. After all, we’re the number one uni in Australia for grads getting jobs.
So contact us and we’ll help you start your career now.
And tell us how you are going to change the game with a degree from CSU.