Medicine & Healthcare, Midwifery in Tanzania by Eva Van Steijvoort
Before I tell you about my placement I shall explain that together with two of my friends I arrived in Tanzania on Valentine’s Day 2012 to begin my final internship (12 weeks or 450 hours) on the delivery ward in Mwananyamala Hospital. All three of us are (hopefully) graduating in June 2012. Before we came here we had already worked on a labour ward in Belgium and some of us had already done deliveries with the supervision of a Belgian gynecologist. I didn’t get the chance to do any deliveries at home so arrived here as a beginner.
Our first day at the hospital was really impressive and we had so much fun discovering everything. We all did deliveries that day and went home feeling like we were on top of the world. Over the next few days we became more familiar with the hard reality of a Tanzanian delivery ward.
Step by step we learned the working methods of the midwives and the doctors. This didn’t go smoothly all the time. I have to say we learned a lot from the midwives when it comes down to the basics. We learned to perform and to do deliveries without all the fancy equipment that we have back home and I sincerely believe that that is something that will make us better midwives when we return.
In the beginning it was not that easy to gain the trust of the local staff. Once they found out we had a medical background and we could perform independently, it was the beginning of an enjoyable friendship with a lot of respect for each other beliefs. Some of the midwives became really good friends with us and they will have a special place in our hearts forever.
During the last three months we got the chance to witness a lot of wonderful things. One of us did a delivery of triplets almost entirely alone without any doctor - something you can only dream about back home. Myself and my other friend also had the chance to do a lot of deliveries on our own which is definitely the dream of every midwife student.
I can recommend the program in Dar Es Salaam for every midwifery student that wants to do an internship abroad. During your stay you will learn how to act quickly in emergencies, how to stitch, how to work independently, how to deal with stillbirths and much more.
When we first arrived, the conditions we were to work in were difficult but step by step we learned how we could make the most out of the material we had available. Together with all the midwifery students we donated a lot of material for the delivery ward with money that we had raised. To determine the most necessary equipment that the ward needed was for us also a good exercise in terms of management and organisation. It’s our biggest hope that the staff will be using the equipment in the future when new volunteers arrive.
To thank the midwives for all they had done for us we made caps to wear in the delivery ward. There were already caps on the delivery ward but the midwives didn’t like to wear them because they were a little bit ugly, so fashionistas that we are made some new caps out of kangha material. This was a huge success, they loved them immediately!
During my stay in Tanzania we did 450 hours of work in the hospital. This was more than the average volunteer and more hours a day than the local midwives. Because of that most people declared us mad. I have to admit it was pretty heavy and after 10 weeks of my internship the desire for a vacation was big.
Once in a while there was also time for entertainment and relaxation. I met the nicest people in Dar, everyone was always very understanding about the school work we had to complete. When it was necessary our friends and supervisors also highlighted the need for some relaxation.
Next to all the experience we gained on the delivery ward, we also participated in a few medical outreaches and a dirty day. These were organised by the local team of Projects Abroad. During these activities we went to primary schools or orphanages to give the children checkups, to take malaria tests, and to paint a few classrooms.
Our Host Family
When I look back now, three months in Tanzania was far too short. Dar Es Salaam felt like home because of the sweetest host family and all the friends I made. I enjoyed my time there incredibly. It exceeded all my expectations and I already know I will go back to Tanzania in the near future but for a longer period. To see all those people and places back, that’s now on top of my wish list.
A special thanks goes out to the host family and to the people of Projects Abroad who made my stay in Tanzania go as smoothly as possible. It was a very nice feeling to know I had trustworthy people to count on.