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Meet our Board Members – Sara Keogh

Here at Better Start Bradford, we really value our Board Members and the expertise that they bring to the partnership table.

Sara Keogh is Head of Midwifery at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. In this month’s ‘Meet our Board Member’ blog she reveals how, as a 10 year old, the birth of her youngest sister inspired her to want be a midwife.

Listen to Sara here:

Sara’s transcript

I’m Sara Keogh, I am the head of midwifery at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. I had wanted to be a midwife from about the age of 10 years old and that was essentially after my mum had a home birth with my youngest sister. I wasn’t present at the birth; we were shipped off to my grandparents, but I do remember being fascinated afterwards by the community midwife.

My dad was a GP and she was attached to his practice so probably visited us a lot more than was usual, but even 35 years ago there was a lot more post-natal visiting than happens now. I was absolutely fascinated by the kind of things that she was doing and I remember asking her loads and loads of questions.

I had originally planned to go to university to study English and had applied for nursing as a backup in case I failed my A-Levels. I did get the grades that I needed but I decided to play it safe and go into nursing anyway with a longer-term plan of going into midwifery.

I started my nursing training at Manchester Royal Infirmary and had a really great experience in a large inner city teaching hospital, probably not that dissimilar from Bradford in a lot of ways. After doing my midwifery placement as part of my nurse training, I knew that was the route that I did want to travel. I went into nursing generally just thinking if I don’t like the midwifery bit I am stuck so let’s get a bit of an all-round experience: I am slightly cautious sometimes!

An inspirational blast from the past

After qualifying I did start as a staff nurse at Pinderfields on the neurosurgical unit and worked there for five months while I was waiting on the midwifery training at Airedale and Bradford. There was a real coincidence, I suppose, the community midwife who delivered my mum at home was actually my tutor! So she interviewed me and she became my tutor; my mum is still in touch with her and so she is quite proud that I made it to where I did.

Again, I loved my midwifery training and I was successfully appointed as a staff midwife at Airedale on completion of that course and started in my favourite area which was the delivery suite. I spent 20 really good years at Airedale and I worked in all of the clinical areas: most of my time was spent in the delivery suite setting and the last part of my time at Airedale I was the labour ward manager. I guess I had got to the point where opportunities at Airedale had got a little bit static and I was supported by the Head of Midwifery at Airedale to progress my career.

So, in 2014 I was appointed as Head of Midwifery at Harrogate District Hospital. I have to say leaving Airedale felt a lot like leaving home after being there for 20 years. It was quite a transition but I very quickly settled in and after six months at Harrogate, my portfolio expanded dramatically to include Head of Nursing responsibilities for the Surgical Directorate. I ended up with an absolutely massive job: it was a huge challenge but an absolutely fantastic experience. It created some really good opportunities for me to develop and expand my own ‘personal toolkit’ I suppose.

My whole being is about improving maternity services for women.

I have to be honest, the dual role distracted me from my true passion which was, and still is, midwifery and I felt my role as Head of Midwifery was becoming a bit diluted. My whole being of being a midwife is about improving maternity services for women so it was absolutely without hesitation that I applied for the role at Bradford when that came up. I have to say that they did replace me with two people when I left Harrogate: one for midwifery and one for nursing!

So four months into being at Bradford, I am absolutely loving my new role. It’s a really exciting place to work with a really diverse population. But after having that two and a half years as Head of Midwifery, I came into Bradford at least understanding the role, which was a massive advantage. The diversity of population does bring a lot of unique challenges and I come across that on a daily basis. When you read reports and things, Bradford is very different to everywhere else, in lots of really positive ways as well.

My initial four months of observing, assessing and seeing what is going on is absolutely changing to needing to start planning and actioning some things. To essentially lead a really good team: the midwifery team is certainly an excellent team at Bradford to make some really positive changes for Bradford women.

Outside of work, because I do actually have a life outside of work too, I’m the mother of three sons. One has just turned 20, one at 17, nearly 18 and my youngest who is 15. My eldest is studying law. My middle one is in Ghana, at the moment, helping to build a canteen for a community school in a village called Elmina, and I have to say for my youngest son, FIFA is still the main activity, but he is already planning his travel itinerary with having two older brothers going down that route.

I’ve also got two younger step daughters, two dogs and an ultra-fell runner (who is also an anaesthetist) who very much keep me on my toes. Most weekends I can be found running up and down large hills in the back yard, which is Ilkley Moor so there’s not really much time for anything else!

Sara Keogh, Head of Midwifery, Bradford NHS TrustBy Sara Keogh
Head of Midwifery, Bradford NHS Foundation Trust

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