OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

5 Days of Welcoming New Life on the Maternity Ward

             This week Caitlin R., Leah, and I were placed on both the Maternity and Neonatal ward. We began this clinical after being in Zambia for just under a week. I was unaware of the culture shock I was about to experience. From the moment I set foot on Zambian soil until the moment I set foot in the hospital I felt completely at ease. I felt as though I had adjusted to this beautiful country with out any issues. However, that  fist moment I came onto the ward I realized how incredibly different the health care setting is. I was uncomfortable, I didn’t know my place, everything was unfamiliar, and I was craving the familiar routine of the hospital setting at home.
During this past week I learned more and experienced more hardships then I ever have. The three of us were all involved in neonatal resuscitation on different occasions, with various outcomes.  I am amazed how much I learned about myself, the culture, the birthing process, and the strength the Zambian people. I watched women and newborns demonstrate beautiful strength and resilience. 
I thought we had came to the maternity ward on a slow day because it was incredibly quiet, “back home”  …  Let me digress for  moment I have found my self and my peers frequently comparing health care in Zambia to “back home”  after this week I learned that it is not always beneficial to continually compare the two health care settings, they are very different. We are here to share our knowledge and use our critical thinking skills to adapt to health care in a different setting not to continually compare the differences…  Back to what I was saying… 
           At home…  it is obviously audible when a new life is about to enter the world. Our North American women tend to be very vocal with the discomfort that accompanies childbirth. In Zambia (and I am told many other parts of Africa) the women are very quiet and stoic during the birthing process.  I was so amazed with the strength of these women. The ability to give birth with no analgesic and internalizing the pain of childbirth was hard for me to understand and comprehend. I said to one of the nurses, “In Canada our women are very loud when they give birth.” 
         Her response was 
“In Zambia our women are very strong.”  I couldn’t agree more.  
I was also amazed with the resilience of the babes. There was one baby in particular, On Monday I cared for this baby in an incubator and was unsure of his prognosis.  As I watched this baby in the incubator I felt helpless, unfortunately the hospital here has limited resources compared  “back home” (again not helpful).  I was happy to have Jackie (our clinical instructor with over ten yeas of neonatal experience) there with me. Together we brainstormed and given the limited resources we determined that the best thing for this babe would asking if the mother could hold the baby skin to skin. This was the first time the mother had held her baby, I felt privileged to be a part of that moment. I was so thrilled to come onto the ward on Wednesday and see the mother with her baby in her bed. The strength this woman and baby had was so amazing. I experienced so much this past week I learned so much about myself, life, death, and the strength and resilience of the Zambian people. 
                On monday I am starting at Save a Life Centre with Ali.  I am looking forward to another 5 days of personal growth and learning. 

One Response to “5 Days of Welcoming New Life on the Maternity Ward”

  1. Unknown

    Dear _____ [you didn’t say your name …. (: ],

    You are so right about the futility of comparing on so many counts, but your story of finding your place as an international student in the Zambian health system is so important. I believe that precisely because you do question your place and proceed with sensitivity and reflection, you will find it – and are finding it, with benefits for you and for those in your care. You bring new meaning to the notion of “back home” and to the age old question of “how do we nurse well” – whatever the circumstances? As you have already found out, you can nurse very well indeed, wherever you are – with your knowledge, skills, and will to do good. Growing on with you,

    Tricia

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