Midwives help deliver better research

Thursday 05 May 2022

Helping babies enter the world was the primary reason midwives Suzanne Bates, Claire Went, Judy Macey and Alison Bolton went into healthcare, but a desire to help drive medical discoveries for vulnerable newborns led them to Mater Research.

Suzanne, Claire, Alison, and Judy are some of the talented midwives in the Mater Research Clinical Trials Unit who are being celebrated on International Day of the Midwife, 5 May 2022.

Suzanne, who co-ordinates clinical trials for the Mother and Baby Program, said pursuing a career in research had been very rewarding.

“I enjoy partnering with principal investigators, clinical staff, parents and their precious infants, to improve future birth outcomes of preterm babies,” Suzanne said.

“The neonatal studies that I help run aim to improve short and long-term outcomes for premature babies admitted to Neonatal Critical Care Units while the antenatal maternal studies we conduct have the potential to reduce negative impacts after birth.”

Claire said her clinical experience had equipped her for research.

“My midwifery experience has allowed for a knowledgeable foundation to providing innovative patient care, including an ability to communicate in a clinical space and react swiftly,” Claire said.

“It’s exciting to be part of a process that will lead to new discoveries in treatment, diagnosis and detection and most importantly guide clinical practice.”

Judy said research had given her the best of both worlds.

“I still get to interact with new infants and their families, but it’s also exciting and rewarding to know your work has the potential power to transform clinical care,” she said.

Mater Research Mother and Baby Program Leader Professor Vicki Flenady also began her career as a midwife and neonatal nurse more than 40 years ago before moving into perinatal epidemiology.

Vicki is the Director and one of the founding researchers of the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE), based at Mater Research – The University of Queensland and is a nationally and internationally renowned expert in the field.

She said while she loved being emersed in the joys of new life, the flip side of working in the labour and neonatal wards has driven her life’s work.

“Midwives are trained to deal with all elements of pregnancy and birth but seeing the trauma and tragedy parents experienced when their desperately loved and wished for baby was stillborn really affected me,” Vicki said.

"It made me want to understand more about stillbirth and pursue research to find ways of reducing the risk of these tragic deaths.”

She encourages other midwives to consider taking on research.

“Clinicians bring a unique perspective to research because they have an intimate knowledge of what’s happening with patients. That perspective is an important element in finding new ways of preventing stillbirth and caring for families who experience this devasting loss,” she said.

“Taking on research and seeing the difference it can make at the national and international level has been incredibly rewarding. We’ve made significant progress in stillbirth prevention and care in recent years and I’m proud to be a part of this.”

Midwives and neonatal clinicians interested in pursuing research can contact the Mater Research Clinical Trials team.