From helping deliver babies in Kenya to teaching new mothers to breastfeed in Vietnam – two groups of UniSA midwifery students have shared profound experiences relating to childbirth around the globe.
A group of students have recently returned from a Study Tour in Vinh Long Province, located in the Mekong Delta of Southern Vietnam.
Final-year student Carrie Mullen says it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience midwifery in a completely different culture. She was one of 10 Bachelor of Midwifery students who were selected through an application process to spend 2.5 weeks at Vinh Long Hospital and to observe and practice in one of the community clinics.
“After observing and learning the way medical practitioners do things in their hospital, we were encouraged to help manage the care of the women,” Carrie says.
“The postnatal ward made the biggest impact on me, as I learnt that as soon as a woman has a baby in Vietnam, they are ‘handed over’ to the family following birth and do not receive much postnatal care from the medical team due to a lack of resources.
“This has led to a higher instance of formula feeding as women have no breastfeeding knowledge. We were able to educate the women and show them proper techniques to assist them. By the end of the trip, families would seek us out and pull us into the room to help with breastfeeding which was very rewarding.”
Carrie says the experience reinforced the importance of good antenatal education about what happens during labour and, more importantly, what happens after the baby is born.
“We give so much information about breastfeeding and how to generally care for babies when they arrive and though it may seem obvious to us, it can be really helpful for others,” she says.
School of Nursing and Midwifery lecturer Vivian Wu, who facilitated the study tour, says the experience gave students a deep understanding of health care delivery in an international setting, which built on their previous experiential learning activities.
“The students provided free antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal midwifery care to the local community,” Wu says.
“They also conducted education sessions with the women and their families, as well as hospital staff.”
Carrie says she plans to do extra accreditation so she can learn some additional midwifery techniques which all midwives in Vietnam are taught, allowing them to be more independent from the doctors.
Brooke Crannaford and Jasmine Blanusa wanted to experience birthing in a third world country and were keen to use their knowledge to help improve their practice and vice versa.
“During our week at FreMo Birth and Medical Centre we delivered eight babies and attended home visits within the community to check on newborn infants, which included taking their weight and temperature, checking their skin integrity and looking into their feeding regime,” Brooke says. “We also assisted with the Immunisation Clinic and were able to immunise over 100 newborns to two year olds.”
Brooke says her midwifery studies helped better prepare them to work in such birthing environments, although it was challenging to perform tasks in a different way to how they’d be done in Australia.
“At New Life Home Trust, we worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Area which consisted of 10 babies, with the majority being only a few days of age.
“All of these children were orphaned or abandoned and unfortunately in Kenya it is very difficult to adopt overseas or even locally so these children will most likely stay in care forever.”