Tammy O’Connor is delivering midwifery services to regional NSW

Image of Tammy O'Connor with trees in the background.

Tammy O’Connor admits she is one of those rare and lucky people who knew early on how she wanted to make a real and lasting impact on this world. And helping her fulfil her goal to deliver midwifery services to the women in remote New South Wales was Charles Sturt University.

“I studied a Bachelor of Nursing at Charles Sturt University and I knew as soon as I started that I wanted to become a midwife. To me it seemed like such an awesome career. I have always loved all things associated with pregnancy, birth and babies!

“Once I commenced studying, I could see how important the role was. How much of a privilege it is to work with a woman and her family at such an important time in their lives. Every mother remembers the birth story of their baby, and a midwife has a profound role in that story.”

Charles Sturt University opens doors for Tammy

Tammy wanted to be best placed to make a practical difference to the lives of pregnant women. That calling kept bringing her back to Charles Sturt.

“After graduating I worked as a registered nurse and quickly enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Midwifery at Charles Sturt while working in the maternity unit as a student midwife. The uni gave me a great platform to learn in a safe environment, and provided a good stepping stone into my career. That’s why, in 2016, I completed a Master of Midwifery through Charles Sturt University. It opened the door to those higher level positions including my current role as a clinical midwifery consultant for the Western NSW Local Health District.

“The beauty of nursing and midwifery is it can take you anywhere.”

The birth of a great midwifery idea

Tammy’s ‘anywhere’ turned out to be parts of NSW which rarely received the health and educational support services they required. Realising women in remote areas needed access to antenatal and postnatal care closer to home, Tammy was instrumental in implementing an outreach maternity service program.

“I believe it’s a basic human right for women to access a midwife during their pregnancy, regardless of their location. I am passionate about women accessing quality care with a midwife.

“Working as a clinical midwifery consultant I have a range of areas in my work portfolio. But I have a particular focus on the local birthing facility and rural maternity services. I work with remote communities to try and implement services to ensure women in these areas have equal access to this type of care, where previously, there haven’t been any.

“And I have grown up in rural NSW and call this area home. Working and living regionally provides me with the opportunity to work within the primary health care model of midwifery. It’s what I love!

“One particular location is four hours away from a birthing facility. They didn’t have access to a midwife at all. So, these women either don’t receive antenatal care – which is dangerous in itself – or they have to travel four hours.

“It’s a problem. We talk about working in third world countries to improve access for women there and, yes, we are very fortunate to live in this country. But we also need to look closely in our own backyard. There are a lot of things within Australia we can improve. And this is one that I am quite passionate about improving.”

Empowering women

Tammy is proud of what the outreach team has achieved. She knows the midwifery service is making a world of difference to the women of remote NSW. Now and into the future.

“Being able to be part of putting a midwife out in these areas, or improving access to midwifery care, to me is empowering women. Enabling them to make choices about their own lives. We are making an impact upon the lives of women.

“I was very honoured to win the 2018 Anthea Kerr Award at the Premier’s Award for Public Service ceremony for this rural and remote model of care. It 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.

“It is so important for women to have access to a midwife during their pregnancy journey. A midwife’s role is so varied. We look at the health and wellbeing of the mother and the baby. We look at the mother’s lifestyle considerations and work through education to empower her and prepare her for parenthood and mothering.

“Often, because of the hormone fluctuations, pregnancy is a heightened time. If women are predisposed to anxiety or depression or some significant life event previously happened these factors can raise their head. So, we also look at women’s social and emotional wellbeing.

Making a world of difference in her own backyard

“There have been a number of positive outcomes for these women. We have better physical health outcomes, increased breastfeeding and engagement rates (where women see us prior to their fourteenth week).”

Most importantly for Tammy, the emotional wellbeing of pregnant women in remote areas has also received a great boost.

“Knowing they don’t have to travel one way for hours for an antenatal assessment when they have three other children at home and aren’t sure how they can leave because they can’t afford it. It is an emotional relief knowing the midwife is coming out to see them. So they can then plan the birth as best as they can.

“It all adds up to a smoother and calmer process for these women.”

Tammy’s little wins support a huge change

The flow-on effects from this outreach program are substantial. Tammy sees the results in better mental, physical and emotional outcomes for mum and baby, their families and whole communities.

“I would like to think this work in rural and remote locations is helping women. Having a small impact to change Australia.

“It is well known that if a woman has a healthy pregnancy and she gives birth in a safe environment, where there weren’t too many stressors during the pregnancy, that she has a healthy baby with a normal birth weight and mum breastfeeds, then that baby’s health dramatically improves. The opposite is true if a women has been exposed to a number of stressors, has a poor diet, their baby is quite small and has a few little concerns. We know there are massive implications for that baby’s health and wellbeing into the future.

“By doing all this work in these areas we are trying to improve the future health and wellbeing of communities and, essentially, Australia. Antenatal care should never be underestimated because the impact it has is huge.

“I love hearing stories like that of a woman in her third pregnancy who hadn’t seen a midwife through any other pregnancy. This time she was engaging with a midwife. Learning how to look after herself and her baby. Learning what it meant to have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy baby.

“Little wins like that means all the difference in the world. Improving the journey for even one woman means I’ve done my job.”

Create a world worth living in

What does a better world look like to you? Does it mean finding a cure for illnesses, improving education, making new discoveries, leading a movement or developing innovative technologies? Or is it about having an impact in your local community and making a difference to the little guys out there? If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in a career you’re passionate about, you can with us.

Our wide range of courses will give you the skills and industry knowledge so you can be the change you want to see in the world. Follow your heart, get qualified and land a job you’ll love with Charles Sturt University. Let’s get to work!