Nursing and midwifery offer a wide variety of career paths. Just because you’re unsuited to one specialisation doesn’t mean you won’t thrive in another. Or maybe you’ve achieved all you can in one area and want a career change. In this series we profile nurses and midwives talking about their career.
Profile: Elvira Earthstar
Elvira has been a clinical midwife consultant for the Women’s Alcohol and Drug Service (WADS) for four years.
Tell us about your career progression
Prior to becoming a health professional, I obtained a psychology degree and did case management and crisis response roles in the family violence sector.
Then I trained as a nurse and started in a grad position at The Women’s where I worked on the special care unit. Some of my patients were babies withdrawing from opiates and I loved caring for these families. I went on to train as a midwife and worked in tertiary settings, in a small country hospital and caseload model of care.
I was working towards becoming an AUM as I reached 10 years’ experience, when a position came up in the drug and alcohol team. Now I’m a clinical midwife consultant providing antenatal care and co-ordination to pregnant people with substance use disorders. I also provide secondary consultation and education statewide to other maternity and primary care providers.
What attracted you to working in this area?
The courage and possibilities for my patient group. They have typically survived a huge amount of trauma. Helping them reach their goals of improving their baby’s health is immensely rewarding.
Did you undertake any extra study/CPD to qualify?
I attended a lot of in-house CPD in this area and have a Graduate Certificate in Addictive Behaviours via Monash University and Turning Point.
What can a typical day be like?
Congratulating a nervous mum with complex addiction on her pregnancy, taking a health history and arranging her ultrasounds and pathology collection. I’ll make sure to find out what her hopes and goals are and give her my direct number and after-hours numbers to call so we can stay in touch every week. I’ll consult with my social work colleagues to get an update on the community supports they are arranging for the family, and their assessments of risks and strengths for the mum and baby.
Then perhaps providing a secondary consult for a regional obstetric team.
After lunch I’ll go meet with parents and their baby on our postnatal ward and talk with them about their baby’s vulnerability to SIDS/SUDI and provide education and some safer sleeping equipment. I might finish the day by calling a maternal child health nurse working in the enhanced program to update them on a baby about to head home and arrange follow up care in our paediatric clinic.
Any advice/tips for students or graduates who might consider your area?
Working in addiction is immensely challenging and very rewarding. Once you hear someone’s story, you’ll find it hard to judge their addictions. Patients with addictions appreciate kindness and honesty from clinicians.
If you’re interested in working in addictive behaviours/AOD nursing and/or midwifery
- Elvira Earthstar facilitates ANMF Education Centre’s online masterclass The Women’s – Alcohol and Drug Service (WADS): Alcohol, cannabis & tobacco (3 hours CPD). There are other masterclasses facilitated by Turning Point.
- Watch ABC 4 Corners episode Breaking the Cycle, including an interview with Elvira.
- Read more about Turning Point and the campaign to rethink addiction.
- The Victorian Department of Health is offering scholarships valued at approximately $10,000 to complete a Graduate Certificate in Addictive Behaviours in 2024. Applications close Friday 20 October.