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2022 Ray Wyeth Early to Remote Practice Award recipient Lorraine Woods
The recipient of the Ray Wyeth Early to Remote Practice Award, Lorraine Woods, transitioned to remote health in 2021, joining the new Palm Cockatoo Midwifery Group Practice in Weipa, Cape York. She discusses what motivated her move, what she’s gained from it, the role of the Endorsed Midwife, and indicators of success.
No two journeys to remote health are quite the same. Two main influences guided Lorraine Woods down the bush track.
It began with the inspiring stories shared by her late mentor Ray Wyeth, who she worked with at St Stephens Private Hospital and later Hervey Bay Hospital. Then a chance vehicle breakdown in Weipa sealed the deal.
“That happened on a Cape trip last year,” Lorraine says. “I had a friend working at Aurukun, and she was here at [Weipa Integrated Health Service] and was telling me about the project. I thought, I could do this.”
The Project she’s referring to is the recently launched Palm Cockatoo Midwifery Group Practice, within the Weipa Maternity Service, which follows a women-centred midwifery group practice model of care. After applying in August 2021, Lorraine commenced in October, and has since worked as a Clinical Midwife, Clinical Midwife Consultant, and within the aptly named MUM role – Midwifery Unit Manager.
“We’re here as a Group Practice so we can offer continuity of care – see clients from the start, through their journey, help them have their beautiful birth, and get a healthy neonate,” Lorraine says.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone should have equity. Everyone should be entitled to healthcare. It’s about trying to allow the women in communities to experience the same outcomes that we do in big cities.
“By allowing our women, in communities, to have accessible care, we can promote birth as a natural and normal thing and get healthy babies and healthy mums. They don’t have to travel.”
Women from neighbouring communities, including Mapoon and Napranum, are on the group practice’s current caseload.
The service is aiming to deliver in-depth care even further afield, such as in Lockhart River and Coen, through telehealth, employment of more midwives and Aboriginal Health Workers, and other solutions still under discussion.
They currently follow an all-risk model for antenatal and postnatal, and a low-risk model for birth. Higher risk women are transferred to Cairns.
“[Sometimes] we’ve missed out on the birthing,” Lorraine says, “which is okay, because birthing is only a small part. We’ve looked after them all their antenatal care, for 36 weeks. They’ve gone to Cairns and come back when the baby is a week old. You’ve missed five weeks, but all that education you offered… they’ve obviously listened. Things are working out.
“Our breastfeeding rates are really high. To have a baby that is breastfeeding is so important. Our women have felt they’ve had enough education that it’s working for them. Having your lady answer the door breastfeeding their baby is just amazing.
” Lorraine’s earlier commitments to professional development are now paying dividends, with her six-month Pharmacology post-grad course leading to her status as an Endorsed Midwife.
This AHPRA endorsement makes it possible, within the bounds of legislation and health service accreditation processes, to prescribe certain medicines, order bloods or ultrasounds, and provide associated services. Lorraine views this as the midwifery equivalent of Nurse Practitioner endorsement and is hopeful it will enable her to maximise continuity of care on the Cape.
On the ground, she’s learned a lot about working cross-culturally. She’s realised the importance of rapport, adapted to that fact that partners may not always be present because of Women’s Business, and taken the advice of two First Nations midwives on the team.
Taken together, these achievements earned Lorraine the CRANAplus Ray Wyeth Early to Remote Practice Award, which was presented at the 39th CRANAplus Conference in Adelaide.
“I was really wrapped to be the recipient of the award, especially because Ray was part of my life and my journey and my career.”
She extends a warm thank you to her colleagues and is excited about her future on the Cape, as she prepares for a secondment to Thursday Island as Clinical Midwife.
For more information on our awards and the nomination process visit Awards, Scholarships & Grants.