Kaitaia Hospital midwife Stephanie Wilkinson is marking International Day of the Midwife today alongside her 'work family,' including one fellow midwife who she helped bring into the world almost 30 years ago.
Far North born and bred, Stephanie joined the Northland DHB in 1981, training as a registered nurse, before becoming a midwife in Glasgow in 1987. She returned to Kaitaia the following year, and has been working as a midwife in her hometown ever since.
These days Steph is the Associate Clinical Midwife Manager at the Kaitaia (Hospital) Maternity Unit, which means she isn't quite as hands-on as she once was, but she often runs in to people she delivered, who now work for Northland DHB, which makes her smile.
"One of my fondest achievements at work would have to be delivering a baby in 1992, who I now employ as a midwife," she said.
And while her current role means she only "catches" the occasional baby now, she loves the unpredictability of each day.
"A typical day for me is never typical," she said.
"Some days I manage, some days I am a cleaner and a waitress, but I enjoy all aspects of my work. Some days I am actually a fully-functioning midwife; I only catch the occasional baby these days, but I am OK with that.
"I love the diversity any day can bring. I love solving problems and thinking outside the box. I enjoy the hospital community and supportive management."
Her skills were in knowing people, making connections, and ensuring competent care and management of Kaitaia's pregnant population, as well as supporting other midwives in maintaining the service locally.
"There are many things I enjoy about working for the Northland DHB, but lately it is the awesome team we have," she added.
"We enjoy being part of a 'work family' who actually like and respect each other. We don't always have to see eye to eye, but we have a healthy work environment, and coming to work is never a chore.
"The culture is happy, and we care for each other and the women who attend our service. I am a firm believer in leading by example – and picking my battles."
Often approached by people considering midwifery as a career, Steph was realistic about the challenges involved in the role, and sometimes she sometimes steered them towards nursing, where the career options appeared greater.
"Rural midwifery in New Zealand is a challenge not for the faint-hearted, and whilst the benefits are great, it is tough on relationships and family. Consider these factors before making any decisions," she said.
"I am a true born and bred Northlander," she added.
"My family (she is the daughter of David and Jeanette Wilkinson, who live at Rangiputa) are from here, I went to school here, and I have raised my children here. There is no better place in the world to work or live - I have been very blessed."