Rukeya Miah from Keighley is the Deputy Associate Director of Nursing, senior midwife, and professional midwifery advocate, currently working as the Vaccine Equalities Lead for Bradford District & Craven District Vaccination Programme.
As part of Asian Standard’s campaign to highlight women making a difference in their community or sector of business or industry during March for International Women’s Day, we sat down with Mrs Miah to chat to her about her career as a registered nurse and midwife, her position as a leader within the NHS, her teaching career, and her transition to lead vaccination clinician across Bradford and Craven last year, all while raising four children.
Mrs Miah’s three-decade-long nursing and midwifery career began in 1991 at The Bradford and Airedale College of Health, after completing her A-Levels at Ilkley Grammar School.
Mrs Miah qualified as a nurse in 1994 working at Airedale Hospital in Keighley. In those days, the senior midwife said, it was “unheard of” for young South Asian women to go into nursing as it wasn’t “a career of choice” like teaching, law, engineering, or medicine.
On the nursing course, there were two other South Asian women, the vaccine lead recalls. Today, one in five nurses are from a Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic background, but a report published by the NHS notes that only 3.9% of female chief nurses, like Mrs Miah, are from a minority community.
The senior midwife’s parents were concerned that nursing was labour intensive, with long hours and hard work but ultimately supported and encouraged her drive to become a nurse. “My mother inspired me to become a nurse, she told me, ‘If that is what you want, then go for it.”
After qualifying, Mrs Miah spent twelve years working as a registered general nurse, mainly in surgery, predominantly surgical intensive care therapy and theatre.
With a passion deep down for obstetrics, the registered nurse opted to undertake additional training to become a midwife. In 2001, Mrs Miah earned a BSc in Midwifery and Women’s Health Studies at the University of Bradford and maintained dual registration as a nurse and a midwife.
The nurse said: “For me, being a nurse, underpins everything. It is the foundation and basis of being able to care for pregnant women. They are not just pregnant, they may have underlying conditions, such as epilepsy, diabetes, or even cancer.”
Her thirst for knowledge didn’t come from school, which she says she was bright but was middle of the pack, but from her time as a nurse before becoming a midwife. She said: “I wanted to always use evidence-based practice.
“I didn’t like not knowing things and doing things as they had always been done just for the sake of it. I always wanted to have the latest evidence so that when I was caring, I had the latest information. This led me on to do an Advance Practice in nursing and midwifery accreditation, which involved neonatal nursing, caring for preterm babies or babies with abnormalities.”
With a postgraduate degree in Senior NHS Leadership from the University of Birmingham and a PGCE teaching qualification, in 2010 Mrs Miah began teaching future nurses and doctors at the University of Bradford.
She added: “I have a passion for speaking with people, engaging, looking at their strengths and building a rapport with individuals. I teach those in further education, people starting their careers in nursing, midwifery, or allied healthcare professionals such as radiography or physiotherapists.
“I love teaching because the ability to break something down simplicity came to me naturally. Everyone comes with strengths, and it is about finding the commonality and bringing it to the forefront.”
Having a passion for academia, Mrs Miah is currently conducting pieces of research that are due to be published on what is considered ‘normal’ within midwifery, childbirth, leadership, and inclusivity within obstetrics.
Highly respected across the healthcare system in Bradford, Mrs Miah became matron in the Division of Medicine at the BTH Foundation Trust in 2016, where she advocates the role of both nurses and midwives. “After around 18 years of midwifery, I was asked to become a matron. I didn’t say yes straight away, as I had spent the last almost twenty years in Midwifery,” the senior nurse added.
She continued: “I had to pause to think about it and reflect on what I wanted. Clinically, I had done what I wanted to do; I felt very fulfilled. Leading people, leading teams, and developing services is what fascinates me. Healthcare professionals, regardless of banding and hierarchy, are leaders.
“When it comes to developing services and designing services, it should be inclusive of all people in society. That is leadership for me, and I wanted that experience, so I decided to apply for five separate roles and got shortlisted for all of them. I went for the most complex because it fascinated me to no end.”
In April 2021, the post for Vaccines Equality Lead for Bradford and Craven came up. After being approached by people in senior leadership positions, the senior midwife applied for the post and landed the job. She said: “The job sounded exciting and different, it came with a lot of issues surrounding low uptake within different communities and young people, regardless of ethnicity, and I wanted an opportunity to bring my skills and passion to this role.
“The role involves working across the district, working with various healthcare sectors, it couldn’t have been more exciting. I loved it and still love it.”
Put on pause due to the pandemic, Mrs Miah is also conducting a PhD by Published Works, contributing to midwifery practice and education, and furthering the advancement of contemporary evidence-based midwifery practice.
With a lot of hard work and determination, Mrs Miah has had an incredibly successful nursing and academic career, but it doesn’t compare to her greatest achievement, her four children. She said: “My family are my end all, be all. Although I am always buzzing around the place, I will make time for my family.
“My family is my sanctuary; it is my pride and joy. Family is your past, your present, and your future. If you can bring up your children with the values you believe in, then you have done an excellent job.”