SustainHealth: Getting to know the “Outback Midwife” Beth McRae

SustainHealth: Getting to know the “Outback Midwife” Beth McRae

After recently attending the CRANA Conference, our team mates Ami and Kay had the pleasure of meeting author and midwife Beth McRae.

A passionate and dedicate professional who recently released her book about her “labours of love.”

For Beth, midwifery has been her calling for the majority of her working life. Spending the last 10 years of her career in remote locations including, Derby, Kalgoorlie, Fitzroy Crossing and Maningrida. Her memoir, “Outback Midwife” was written while living and working as the Remote Area Midwife in Maningrida.

SustainHealth Recruitment have had the pleasure of interviewing Beth to talk more about her wonderful book “Outback Midwife” and find out more about her unique experiences in outback Australia!

  1. What inspires you to write?

I was approached to tell my story after I replied to a request from a known author from the UK. Charlotte Ward had written published books in the UK about home birth midwives – Sheena Byrom and Virginia Howes. Charlotte wanted to write a book about a Remote Midwife. I replied to her request where she asked me to answer 8 different questions. After about 2 months I received a phone call from Charlotte to say she wanted to write my story. I was in Europe at the time on holidays. I had never envisaged myself as an author.

  1. Does writing energise or exhaust you?

I loved remembering where I had come from and where I was working as a remote midwife working as the designated midwife in one of the largest aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land Northern Territory. I wrote almost every night as I remembered stories from my past. I found it exhilarating.

  1. How did you write whilst working in such a demanding job?

Even though my job was demanding there is plenty of ‘downtime’ especially after hours. During that time I would spend sitting at the computer writing from memories of my past life and working experiences.

  1. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing was to make my experiences exciting to other people, to me it was nothing special – just something I wanted to do and was lucky enough to have been chosen to come to Maningrida as the Remote Midwife. Charlotte kept asking me to add emotion to my story which I eventually did. I have had reader contact me to let me know how they laughed and how they cried while reading through my life experiences. Even my husband was bought to tears in place when he read my book.

  1. What is the most important thing about your book “Outback Midwife”?

In my opinion, the most important message in my book as the inspiration I have given other nurses/midwives who are contemplating working remote. Much of the feedback from my public presentation has been ‘what an inspiration, I would love to do what you have done’.

  1. What has been your favourite nursing or midwifery story?

My favourite nursing story is not in the book. I have returned to work in Maningrida for 6 months as the Midwife of the community. I have been greeted like a long lost friend and not just the mothers but the aunties and grandmothers have expressed the pleasure to see me back as the midwife in their community.

  1. Where has been your most challenging location to work in as a midwife and why?

My most challenging location would have been working out of Fitzroy Crossing. There was one time I was at a remote community when a woman came into the clinic at 26 weeks bleeding. I visited the remote community once a fortnight. During our 4 hour time at that clinic, I was able to contact RFDS and have her evacuated to Perth before we flew back to Fitzroy Crossing. She was living with a man who was violent and had been in jail. A week after the baby was born she was requesting to return to her community because she was homesick. She was encouraged to stay in Perth with her baby however she found a way to get back home. A week after her return to the community she was bought int ED at the hospital with another injury.  The woman was returned to Perth and Children and Family Services were involved. I find this so challenging as there is not much I can personally do to help fix it.

  1. What would you tell someone who was looking to go and work remotely for the first time, what tips can you give?

Remote Nursing and/or Midwifery is not for everyone. You need to have a passion to want to do something different. There are courses you can do that can prepare you theoretically for remote work. In Alice Springs there is the School for Remote Health, pharmacotherapeutics and giving vaccines are recommended. Experience in the Emergency Department is also helpful. Experience in Primary Health is also advantageous. Be confident and competent.

  1. Do you have any plans to write any more books in the future?

Any more books – we’ll see.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to meet or work with Beth will tell you how inspiring and energetic she is, with a true and genuine love of life and community.

At SustainHealth HQ, we have been so inspired by Beth that we want to share her story with the wider healthcare community. We have two copies of her book, “Outback Midwife” to give away, check out our social media posts for further information on how to win!