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Hospital home-from-home is where the heart is for globetrotting midwife Rhian

Image shows a midwife as she is now and as a little girl.

A globetrotting midwife is living the dream at Singleton Hospital even if it has taken more than 20 years and thousands of miles to get there.

Rhian Jones first decided to become a midwife as a little girl when she was inspired by her best friend’s mum.

Above: Rhian as a youngster and today, working in Singleton Hospital

But life went in a different direction and Rhian completed a psychology degree before working and volunteering in countries from North Africa to Australia and many places in between.

Image shows a woman with two alpacas in mountainous terrain. Midwifery, though, was the itch she couldn’t scratch. After returning to the UK and finding full-time work, Rhian decided to take the plunge, packing in her job and selling her house to train as a midwife.

Rhian with some friends she made while travelling in Peru

It was, she says, the best thing she has ever done. And while her home is in Ammanford, her home-from-home is Singleton Hospital where she says the teamwork and support are nothing short of remarkable.

“I knew I wanted to be a midwife from when I was about seven years old,” said Rhian, now aged 29. “That was when I found out how babies were made and where they came from.

“My best friend at the time told me her mother was a midwife and I remember thinking her mother was this amazing person. As it happens, 20 years later, she was my first practice supervisor in the community.”

There was, however, a considerable gap between that childhood dream of becoming a midwife and becoming one for real.

Rhian gained her psychology degree in 2015. After that she worked and volunteered abroad, teaching in Ghana, working in orphanages in Morocco and on a psychology programme in Sri Lanka.

There she worked with people with significant mental health issues and made a presentation on volunteering to the United Nations.

Her travels also saw her work across soup kitchens in Washington, Chicago and New York. She taught in a village school in Cambodia and worked as an au pair in Australia.

Image shows a woman speaking from behind a podium. “I also worked in India, in Delhi, on a women empowerment programme – working with women in a domestic violence relationship and who needed to access support,” said Rhian.

“From there, a passion for supporting women came so strongly to me and I thought – this is my niche.”

After returning to the UK, she worked for Carmarthenshire Council and then for Chwarae Teg, the gender equality charity which Rhian said she absolutely loved.

“I worked all around Wales trying to promote provisions for women within the workplace, supporting their maternity rights and so on,” she said.

“But I just knew I wanted to be a midwife. It’s my core, I would say. By that time I was 25 and I decided I’m going to go for it. I sold my house. I quit my job. I became unemployed from being financially stable.

“I let everything go just to pursue midwifery and it’s been the best thing I have ever done in my life. I’ve not looked back. I have never regretted it.”

Rhian successfully applied to join the three-year midwifery course at Swansea University. With no income, she joined the nurse bank and did shifts as a hospital support worker.

After qualifying last August, Rhian delayed her start date as a midwife so she could embark on one last extended global adventure – backpacking in South Africa and through South and Central America.

“I came home on the 14th of December and started work in Singleton on the 19th,” she said. “It's the best job in the world.

“I did my placements primarily in Hywel Dda. I requested in my second year to come here because I wanted experience of high risk because we take the very ill babies here.

Image shows a midwife in uniform “And the unit is second to none. The expertise of the consultants and the paediatric team is unbelievable. People within this area should be aware of that. At Singleton, the care that we can give is incredible.

“And I want to be part of that. I want to learn, and I just want to be the best midwife I can possibly be.

“I think Singleton will provide me with that knowledge of high risk, within a team that is so supportive that I have no concerns at all. I don’t feel nervous to ask if there is something I don’t know.

“I’m supported, whether that be by another health carer, a domestic or a consultant or a fellow midwife, there’s not one person in this unit who is not approachable to me.

“Okay, we’re short staffed. That isn’t anything people are not aware of. We haven’t got a choice but to come together and we come together like nowhere else I’ve ever worked. The teamwork here is unbelievable.”

Travelling will still form an important part of Rhian’s life, even if she is scaling it back. She has recently returned from Nepal while next up will be a journey to Japan – both shorter trips using her annual leave.

“The taking big chunks of my life away to travel is done,” Rhian said. “My life is here, in Singleton Hospital.”

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