Nurturing babies to nurturing future leaders

Michael Jacobson stands in a hospital corridor
Michael Jacobson is the Nurse Director for surgical specialties and women, children and newborn services for Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group.
August 28, 2019

“When someone says you can’t do something, naturally you want it even more.”

This was the philosophy that ensured Michael Jacobson was able to achieve his goal of being a midwife when male nurses and midwives were not the norm in the 1970s.

Not only did he go on to have an extensive career as a nurse and midwife, he successfully transitioned into senior management.

In his role as Nurse Midwifery Director for Surgical Specialties and Women, Children and Newborn Services across Fiona Stanley and Fremantle hospitals, Michael oversees 400 nursing and midwifery staff and the delivery of care to thousands of patients.

He shares insights from his career and leadership for Nursing Now, an international awareness campaign which aims to raise the profile of nursing and midwifery.

After completing his general nursing training, Michael went on to study midwifery in 1986. He was one of three men in a class of about 30 students. That year he delivered 100 babies.

“In the early days there were perceptions of male nurses and midwives. My mother was shocked and horrified, my father didn’t accept it,” he said.

Michael still remembers his time ‘on the floor’ fondly.

“A precious moment for me was delivering the first wave of IVF babies, it was very special for the parents and the staff involved,” he said.

There are around 160 males working in various nursing and midwifery positions across different specialties at Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group (FSFHG).

Michael was never turned away by a patient, although he said it does happen to male nurses for cultural reasons from time to time.

“Over the years I have seen advancements in the field. Nursing and midwifery is now seen as a career of choice for both genders. It offers flexibility, job satisfaction as well as travel and promotional opportunities,” he said.

“Socially we have progressed, however I would like to see term ‘midwife’ changed to something gender neutral.”

As his career developed, Michael could see how the influence of ‘good managers’ impacted on the bigger picture of delivering better patient care.

“I’m a firm believer of the 1000 days philosophy – do the right thing in first 1000 days of life, and the last 1000 days of life.”

Generous with his time and experience of 43 years, it doesn’t take long to realise why Michael’s peers say he has a natural ability to nurture teams and staff.

“Some people like nursing management for fiscal reasons or career only agenda – it should always be about the patient and staff,” he said.

“The biggest buzz I get from my job is seeing my staff get job satisfaction, promoted and achieve their career goals. My advice to them is to seize every opportunity and never under-estimate a lateral career move.”

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