Reflections from an elective placement to Uganda 2017 with MAMA Liz Payne 3rd year Midwifery student from University of Bedfordshire
Throughout training, an elective placement had always been something that I wanted to complete. So, when two of my fellow colleagues presented a power point of their experiences travelling to Uganda with MAMA I knew this was what I wanted to do. Within one-week Sharon and myself were in contact with MAMA, organising when we could go and what we needed to do beforehand.
The day we were leaving came around so quickly, there was a whirlpool of emotions alongside many questions; would I enjoy it? what would we experience? I felt excited, nervous, apprehensive but mostly extremely lucky all at the same time. After all I was not only leaving my children for 2 weeks but also the comforts of the resources that we are so fortunate to have access to when working within the NHS, and traveling to a country where I had no clue what healthcare resources would be available to us, if any.
After several hiccups, we were united with Rhi (the midwife who had helped us arrange this experience and a trustee of MAMA), and we were in Uganda. Of course, I had many expectations, one of these was about how Uganda would look. Throughout my two weeks most of these expectations would turn out to be completely wrong.
We arrived in Hoima at breakfast time and after introductions with Sofia (a midwife and trustee of MAMA), we tucked into the first of many amazing meals. Being in Uganda for only two weeks, we wanted to hit the ground running and experience as much as we could possibly squeeze in. We were shown to where we would call home for the next two weeks. The house was amazing, far more than we could have ever expected, unpacking took all of about 30 minutes as we were excited to begin our placement.
While wandering around the hospital we went into the kangaroo care ward, it was like a ray of sunshine, skin to skin care is the most effective way of regulating a baby’s heartrate and temperate as well as initiating breastfeeding and bonding and they were promoting this form of care. With many premature babies being born this was essential to their survival, and it was happening.
The next day we travelled to Runga, a village on the edge of Lake Albert where MAMA had opened their clinic. This is where in the two weeks that I spent in Uganda I felt like I learnt so much, made the most difference and where we felt so welcome. Children and adults smiling and waving to us when they saw the MAMA vehicle arrive. Reflecting on that time now that I have been home for several weeks is where I feel my midwifery and communication skills were most utilized.
Most of the people that we saw at the clinic had only primary education which meant most do not speak English, this was a huge challenge when attempting to explain the care and treatments we were offering. Luckily MAMA have some amazingly dedicated midwives from AZUR hospital that also work at the clinic and helped with translation.
Having the opportunity to work in the clinic at Runga under supervision, I felt immensely privileged, it made me revaluate the things in my life that I thought were important, and now home, has changed many things about the way I practice midwifery. The women who attended the clinic, sat waiting their turn with no complaint of how long they waited, appreciative of the care they received.
We treated many people for malaria over those two weeks, not surprising really when you consider that there is no clean drinking water in the village unless you pay for it. How lucky we are that we do not have to even think where our water is coming from, but just turn on a tap.
It was a huge success, with MAMA offering transportation for women to come to their clinic to receive their antenatal care, or to come and await labour. The first week the vehicle turned up to collect anyone wanting to come, the truck was full, with not only pregnant ladies but people wanting treatment for malaria for themselves or children. To be a small part in that felt amazing.
When not in Runga, we mainly spent our placement offering support to the maternity ward in AZUR hospital. Completing antenatal, postnatal and newborn checks as well as working alongside the midwives on the labour ward. This was an inspirational and emotional time, seeing first hand that a little care is so appreciated. Holding a woman’s hand during her labour or communicating with eye contact that she was doing great, was exactly where I wanted to be.
My time in Uganda came to an end to quickly, I saw some amazing sites, learnt so much and met some wonderful people during my two weeks. Midwives that work tirelessly in making a small difference to the women’s lives that they care for. Sacrificing so much to offer their knowledge and time. Both Sofia and Rhi have the unique quality of giving so much and not expecting anything in return, they both taught me so much in my short time, and for that I am truly grateful. This experience (it may sound cheesy) but did change me both personally and professionally, it is something that I will remember forever. I fell in love with Uganda and the people, it is definitely somewhere I will return once I have completed my preceptorship. Until then, keep up the amazing work you do MAMA.
Read the account of two third-year midwifery students who joined us at Azur Clinic for their elective placement at Hoima, Uganda in 2015.
“I was in my final year of midwifery training and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands to go to Uganda, along with my friend Josie.”
“In June 2016, myself and another third year student Midwife were given the opportunity to go to Uganda for our elective placement.