How does one become the Nurse of the Year?
After all, there are a lot of nurses.
Well, for Dublin born Dr. Sally McNally it began when, inspired by her older sister Mary, she qualified as a nurse and then a midwife at Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, County Louth. After that, McNally told the Irish Echo, “I spent five years working in Saudi Arabia perfecting my craft, and delivered thousands of babies over there. That's all I did: deliver babies.”
From there it was on to the States, which “was always kind of like a dream” and also where for much of the past 30 years McNally has been helping people, building a life with her husband John and daughter, Brigid - “of course!” - all the while burnishing her credentials.
McNally’s first stop in the United States was Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked for about a year before wanderlust sent the young nurse westward for a year-long stint in Alaska and then, finally, down the coast to Ventura, California.
With a nod to all of her qualifications and degrees, the Irish Echo asked, was nursing and midwifery not demanding enough?
With a laugh, McNally noted that all of her additional interests “stem from my work in the labor room.”
“I am very interested in the mind, and physical health; and mind-body interactions; and that leads to a lot.”
McNally explained that after qualifying as a nurse the Irish system allows the newly qualified nurse to select a specialty and she, of course, opted for midwifery. Once in America, McNally was required to get a Masters degree in midwifery, which she duly acquired. It turned out, McNally told the Irish Echo, “that I just loved the study. And I got two masters, midwifery, and I'm also a women's health nurse practitioner. And then I went on to get my doctorate.”
“The whole thing just came together so nicely for me because I studied education, as well as patient education. So I teach childbirth classes, hypnobirthing and prenatal yoga. I went and I actually got trained as a full Certified Hypnotherapist. So I bring all of that together, so that I can really help my patients. I truly try to be what they want.”
Expanding on her motivation, McNally said that she tries “to make the birth as positive as possible. I try to find out what they're afraid of and then work with them on that, to remove the fear so that they can go into their labor confident and to truly realize how powerful they are.”
"Women are super powerful. And they need to be reminded of that. That what they're doing; birthing babies; what's more powerful than that?
"They’re growing this human being inside their body, they're birthing it, and then afterwards they're able to produce food for this child. So they need to be reminded of really what it's all about, rather than scary stories that they've heard.”
She added: "When I witness a woman in labor, I can see if there's a huge struggle, if her mind is (saying) ‘no, no, no, I don't want this, I can't do this.’ Or, if she's in acceptance, and peaceful with what's happening in her body. So, I'm really interested in how we can harness that for all women, and bring all women, or as many as possible, to that state of joy?”
In an effort to get to that “state of joy” McNally taps into her training in yoga and hypnosis and notes that her childhood education honor “opened up my mind to all the possibilities of what a woman can do in the labor room.”
Seemingly, not content to limit her reach to the patients she comes in direct physical contact with, McNally has started a podcast. With a nod to both her profession and her Dublin roots, the podcast is titled “The Bleedin Truth.”
“It's something that my daughter asked me to do. She said, ‘I really want to do this podcast with you because I want to hear all your stories and I want to record them.”
Ever the educator, McNally said that the podcast is branching out to talk to other people who are working in women's health.
In addition to her stellar CV, McNally may have had another leg up on her selection as the Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation Nurse of the Year Award, her Irish accent!
“A lot of people I meet, as soon as they hear me talk, they say ‘you're Irish! I have a friend who's Irish or I had a boss who was Irish’ and their stories about their friend or their boss or the person that they met are always really positive. And I feel very welcome.”
“As soon as I say I’m from Ireland, they're like, ‘Yay! That's great.” “I see them as ambassadors,” McNally says of her predecessors. “They have given the Irish such a good name around the world.”
Dr. Sally McNally’s podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, etc and your host asks, “if you could give me a like or subscribe, that would really help me,” while reminding, "it's Bleedin, without a g!”