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Life as a midwife trainer in Ethiopia

Jacqueline McAuley has spent the last six months volunteering as a midwife trainer in Ethiopia. This is her story.

My official job title is midwife instructor, which earns me the name of ‘Sister Jacqueline’. The main objective is to strengthen the clinical practice of midwives and student midwives. Each day is different and I’ve found that each day I seem to get a little busier, as trust is gained from my colleagues the workload increases and new areas of interest are developed.

In the last six months I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in a variety of projects, supervising students on their clinical placements, classroom based teaching, conducting a clinical audit on the outcomes of newborns, working on a small grant proposal for improving conditions on maternity ward and helping with a WHO-funded project to equip a maternal and child health clinic in a rural area relatively near to Gondar.

Equipping a health clinic has involved a few trips to the clinic to piece together a variety of medical equipment from delivery couches to autoclaves and lamps. The final aim being to train all of the health centre workers on how to use the equipment effectively.

Our first trip: Accompanied by one of the only senior female doctors from internal medicine we make our way to the clinic, the driver speeds along the dirt road kicking up a trail of dust behind us. Entering the clinic we greet a number of the staff, their names and positions are mostly lost on me, as my basic Amharic doesn’t keep up. Proudly we are shown the large boxes that contain the equipment. Chaos ensues as each box is pulled into the courtyard and opened. “Koi, koi, wait, wait” I cry futilely wanting to keep the components of each box together…

Never mind I think at least the instructions can identify what goes where. Instructions are non-existent in any language. A shrug of the shoulders and a deep breath is taken, how hard can this be, I was a student of the IKEA flat pack bookcases, I can do this…

Three hours later with much laughter and confusion through a fog of English, Amharic and the ‘sign language’ of pointing we managed to assemble two stools, one delivery couch, two lamps and three drip stands. The midwives, nurses, birth attendants, cleaners, student health officers who just happened to be visiting the clinic and our driver all stand around with a sense of accomplishment, promises are made that we will return to complete the project as we head home as the sun starts to set.

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