‘Call the Midwife’ Recap: Season 5 Episode 8

Call the Midwife’s fifth season concluded Sunday, May 22, so this the final recap written by the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing faculty midwives. SPOILER ALERT: This posts contains a spoiler.

L-R: Nurse Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie), Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris), Nurse Phyllis (Linda Bassett). Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Mutevelian
Nurse Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie), Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris), Nurse Phyllis (Linda Bassett). Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Mutevelian

By Bethany Domzal Sanders
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

A tribute to Sister Evangelina

Bethany SandersThis week’s episode of Call the Midwife left me stunned and tear-streaked. I’ve always liked that Nonnatus House portrays midwives of different generations who have varying degrees of experience and I felt like Sister Evangelina (portrayed by Pam Ferris) ruled the roost. Despite her sometimes acidic personality, she was also willing to teach the younger midwives and had high expectations of them. In honor of Sister Evangelina, I want to reflect on the lessons she taught me about being a midwife.

Sometimes in teaching it’s best to step back. At the very last birth she attends, Sister Evangelina makes herself scarce just moments before the baby is born. Her experience tells her the birth is imminent and she excuses herself under the pretense of getting some water. In doing so, Sister stays close, but allows Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) to grow in her role and develop confidence in her skills. Teaching midwifery is incredible hard, after all, we all like catching babies, but sometimes stepping back just a little gives the next wave of midwives the opportunity to come into their own.

Silence is golden. Oh how we will miss her wit and sharp tongue! Sister Evangelina had the uncanny knack of being able to put someone in their place with a well-worded quip. Her verbal skills got her into trouble at times and so she sometimes opted for silence. It was during then that others were able to shine a bit brighter. The lesson for me was that sometimes in labor and birth it’s best to be quiet and let others take the main role for labor support. While I enjoy and love being the helpful coach and cheerleader, sometimes it’s better that the father, mother, doula or friend have that role, so I fade into the background. After all, it’s not about me.

“Always been a doer.” Sister Evangelina described herself as such in an early season of Call the Midwife. She was a hard worker, the kind of person who values getting things done and who may not excel at everything, but who can do anything. I’ve learned there is value in being productive. Some days I don’t feel like I connect with every single patient but that doesn’t mean there aren’t appointments to get through, charts to be completed, labs to review and messages to respond to. Sometimes getting it done as effectively and efficiently as possible is good enough.

There will be an empty place in Nonnatus House and a hole in our hearts with the passing of Sister Evangelina. She was the kind of person whom it took some time to warm up to, but for all her faults, she really did love her work and her community. That’s the sort of legacy we can all aspire to. We mourn the death of her character and are grateful for the times each week we spent with her. She will be missed.

Bethany Domzal Sanders, MSN, CNM, is a member of the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives, the clinical practice of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing located at West End Women’s Health Center.

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