Life after UBC: a career helping others

How Sarah-Jane fulfilled her dream of becoming a midwife

Life after UBC: a career helping others
CategoryAlumni
NameSarah-Jane Steele
FromDartmouth, Nova Scotia
ProgramMidwifery

Sarah-Jane Steele, or SJ to her friends, has midwifery in her blood.

Ten years after completing her degree in journalism, she chose UBC’s tight-knit and supportive midwifery program as the ideal place to gain the knowledge and practical skills for her new career – one that saw her following in her footsteps of her great-great-grandma. Alongside the clinical and scientific acumen necessary to ensure healthy births, SJ particularly enjoyed the program’s professional placements and variety of courses, including those that let her look holistically at the birthing process and realize the responsibility of helping and protecting people during childbirth. Now a registered midwife and working in the field she loves, SJ has started a rewarding career that helps her to balance her time in the clinic with her own family.

 

Where are you from, and what was your path to UBC?

I originally hail from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia: the traditional, unceded lands of the Wabanaki and Mi’kma’ki people. My great-great-grandmother was an Irish settler midwife in the bays of Halifax and I guess it was in my DNA to pursue the career, but we had no medical training for midwives in Nova Scotia, and we still don’t. I had my first child in BC and heard excellent things about UBC’s Midwifery program and I began studying my prerequisites to one day gain admission. I wasn’t really in a place to apply until 2015 as I was a single parent at the time and working four jobs, but when I did, I was successful, and a new path began.

 

Why did you choose your program?

I heard doctors, firefighters, and lots of others say this, but it wasn’t until I witnessed my first birth that I really knew that it was always what I was supposed to do. Midwifery requires a certain type of person. I never really felt my true direction until I read the Midwifery page on the UBC site, and everything just clicked in that moment.

 

What big questions did you have before arriving at UBC (about yourself or about the world)?

As a mature student, when I re-entered post-secondary education (my first degree in Journalism was completed almost 10 years earlier) I wondered if I’d be able to keep up with online learning, reviewing, and studying content. I also questioned if I would be able to find friends when it seemed like everyone attending UBC was under the age of 30, unencumbered, and “fresh”.

How wrong I was! I found other folks who were parents and who had their own stories of hard knocks. I loved my time in UBC student family housing. I even found a babysitter who lived a few floors up from me who was here from Jordan, and we learned so much about her culture. I could really lean on her in a pinch as studying and classes didn’t always fall within the hours of my daughter’s daycare. Neither does midwifery!

 

What did you like most about your degree?

I enjoyed my clinical coursework and inter-professional placements with those in obstetrics, general practitioners, and pelvic floor physios. Our scope can expand immensely when we work collaboratively with other care providers in contraception, family planning, physical therapy, and obstetrics, all for the greater good of our patients and clients.

 

Sarah Jane SJ Steele UBC Story

 

What was your favourite course during your degree, and why?

I loved a course we did in first year called “birth and its meaning”. There is no question that our job requires clinical acumen, but the roots of midwifery stem from an appreciation and respect for cultural practices and ceremony surrounding birth, keeping birth (and midwives) in the community, and understanding how those elements promote healthy birth. This class allowed us to explore these ideas and we also created our own projects illuminating what we appreciate about the circle of life and our role within it.

I once heard Penny Simkin, a renowned doula and childbirth educator, speak at a childbirth and trauma training. She said people remember their experience of childbirth vividly even years later, with very few memory lapses. They recall other things, even their wedding day, with less specificity and detail. Before we learn all the clinical things – the tests we need to order, the things we need to prescribe, how to manage births – we need to remember that we are here to improve that experience for people. That class really made me realize the weight of that responsibility and my role in honouring and keeping birth safe.

 

What is your current job, and what do you like most about it?

I’m a registered midwife with Arbutus Midwives in Victoria, BC. What I love most about the job is the variety – it puts all of my adaptability skills to the test. I also love how the midwives in my community have joined together as best they can, despite “COVID burnout”, to try and help each other. I admire their true generosity of spirit and seek to live up to it.

 

What does a day-in-the-life look like for you?

I’m either in clinic, first call, or second call. First call means seeing to all labs, emails, and calling clients with results while also managing any births in progress. Second call is being available as a second midwife for any home births or helping out if the first call is too busy. A clinic day is a 9-t0-5 whirlwind. One clinic visit might be doing a pap smear, the next I’ll be weighing a baby and calculating its gain or loss, the next I’ll be a shoulder to cry on. Luckily at my practice you don’t usually have to go on call after managing a busy antenatal clinic, so I can usually pick up my children and have dinner with them reliably on clinic days. One thing is for sure – almost every day is busy!

 

How did UBC help prepare you for your career?

We are re-certified annually in everything from midwifery emergency skills, neonatal resuscitation, and other obstetrics certifications. The scenario testing run by our UBC profs every year made us accountable for knowing those skills inside out and backwards, and this really does prepare you for the work in the way that only repetition can. I don’t think anything can truly get you ready for the real thing, but I have vital teachings from each of the professors that helped prepare me for the career, which I take with me every time I walk into a birth.

 

Sarah Jane SJ Steele UBC Story

 

How did you discover and apply for your first job after leaving UBC?

In my clerkship, I sent emails around all of the practices in my community, asking if they wanted or needed a new registrant midwife. In our community, only a couple of new midwife spots are available and they are highly coveted. In the end I was lucky to have been contacted by a practice looking for a locum and my application was a success! We do have a listserv that posts jobs for all over BC, and the Canadian Association of Midwives post jobs available all across Canada and overseas, so this is also a great place to job seek.

 

What do you miss most about UBC now that you’ve graduated?

I miss my classmates and seeing my teachers in person. COVID bubbled us into online learning so many of us hadn’t seen each other since the start of the pandemic. We all graduated online and it was so hard not to walk across the stage with everyone and share our achievements together in one room. I also miss taking my daughter to the UBC Farmers Market on Saturday mornings or walking along the beaches near campus.

 

In your opinion, what makes UBC and its Midwifery degree distinctive from other universities?

UBC Midwifery is distinct in offering only a select number of seats. I think there is something to be said for our small group of just 20 midwives, versus being a larger group as you find at other universities. We knew each other’s children’s names, and we attended each other’s births. I also felt that I was known by name by my profs, and I really needed them at times when life got in the way of being a student and clerk; they rose to the occasion to support me. I also received bursaries that really saved my bacon, and student family housing was amazing, as were the daycares on campus (my daughter still raves about her time at Salal daycare). I don’t know that I could have been brave enough to go after this career without the supports UBC provided on campus.

Now that I am on the other side of my degree, I feel that this program is achievable with the right financial and cultural supports in place. I am hopeful UBC will create more funding and positions for BIPOC and Indigenous students going forward, to increase the representation of BIPOC and Indigenous Midwives in birthwork, as that is what will continue to make UBC distinct from other universities.

 

 

 

Latest Stories

Previous
Danielle G UBC Okanagan Geography student

Pursuing a second degree in Human Geography

Danielle’s experiences as a Geography student UBC Okangan
student

Pursuing a second degree in Human Geography

"As someone who is interested in the humanities and social sciences, an Arts degree at UBC was perfect for me as it allowed me to broaden my knowledge through a variety of different classes, while gaining the necessary requirements for my career goals and graduate school." - Danielle G., Geography
Sophie H. on the Okanagan campus

Exploring cultural theory and social change

UBC Okanagan Arts student Sophie on the power of a Cultural Studies degree
student

Exploring cultural theory and social change

“It is one thing to identify what is wrong with this world, but it’s another to see how people are managing to live and finding joy within it. Because this is where the changes are happening.” - Sophie H., Cultural Studies

Choosing research in Nursing at UBC Okanagan

How Nursing student Dresya is tackling late detection of breast cancer to improve patient outcomes.
student

Choosing research in Nursing at UBC Okanagan

"The program pushes me to redefine what it means to be a 'nurse' daily. There has not been a day where I have not learned something new. Whether it is delving into the pathophysiology of a disease or acquiring a new clinical skill, the learning never stops. In my experience, the program at UBC Okanagan also understands the profound importance of people in nursing. It pushed me to look beyond mastering the scientific basis of nursing, and incorporate the patient's lived experiences into the care I provide." - Dresya D., BSN

Helping Indigenous communities through Nursing

How Ashley made the career change from marketing to nursing, with the aim of making a positive difference within the Indigenous community.
student

Helping Indigenous communities through Nursing

"Once I complete my schooling, my aim is to work closely within the Indigenous population. My passion lies in patient-centered care and ensuring cultural safety, and I'm eager to make a meaningful impact in these areas." - Ashley H., Bachelor of Science in Nursing

An artist's journey to building community

How UBC Okanagan Fine Arts student Ziv fosters community among UBC's international students as an International Peer
student

An artist's journey to building community

"As an International Peer, I aim to introduce the supportive and inclusive environment UBC has for new students to thrive in. I hope to foster a sense of community and belonging among the international student population, because building connections and relationships is crucial to a positive university experience." - Ziv W., Bachelor of Fine Arts

Having a blast getting to know UBC Vancouver

Bachelor of Science student Kayree on taking part in Jump Start Vancouver, Imagine Day and Collegia
student

Having a blast getting to know UBC Vancouver

"Jump Start helped me transition into university life by introducing me to people that took the same classes as me. The orientation leaders for Jump Start also did an amazing job touring us around UBC despite it being so big. I got used to the map of campus within a week." - Kayree R., Bachelor of Science

Getting ready for university

How Academic Essentials prepared Rajalakshmi for life at UBC Vancouver
student

Getting ready for university

"[Academic Essentials] was a great way to get a taste of university life and explore different aspects of academic work. I was able to see how the same content taught to me can be approached and understood in different ways. The feedback and support from the peers and mentors in the program helped me feel more confident in what I knew, while allowing me to learn and grow." - Rajalakshmi N., Bachelor of Applied Science

Finding confidence as a first-year student

How UBC Okanagan’s Orientations helped Soumil feel comfortable and confident before classes started
student

Finding confidence as a first-year student

“Jump Start was incredibly helpful in helping me to make friends before school began. Through the program, I was able to meet a lot of new people who were also incoming first-year students. We participated in a variety of activities and events together, which helped us to bond and get to know each other better. By the time classes started, I already had a solid group of friends who I could turn to for support and advice.” - Soumil C., BSc in Computer Science
next