A Volunteer Nurse Assesses Maternal and Newborn Health Care

Posted By J. Beryl Brooks on June 27, 2016

Labels: Africa , Sierra Leone , Humanitarian Aid, Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers

Project HOPE volunteer nurse assists in Sierra Leone.

J. Beryl Brooks, the Developmental Clinic Coordinator for Improved Pregnancy Outcome at Memorial UniversityMedical Center in Savannah, is part of a team of medical volunteers who traveled to Sierra Leone in May to conduct a rapid assessment of maternal and newborn health care in health facilities there. This humanitarian mission is in response to a re-emerging crisis in country where maternal and newborn mortality is among the highest in the world. Here she shares a portion of her journal in which she recorded her personal observations of the trip.

Continuing our visit in Bo District, we talked to a number of staff members in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum about their pre- and in-service training.

There are no phones on the wards, so it is necessary to go from place to place to communicate and get things done. This is time consuming. Most phones in use are the staff’s personal cell phones. Electricity is intermittent, a problem for many reasons: oxygen concentrator not working, no lights to view the patients, etc. We found this to be a problem last night, too; when we returned to the hospital it was hazardous to get from place to place. There is no lighting in the hallways, many of which have drop-offs, steps and gaps. There was one functioning lightbulb in the pediatric ward requiring the use of flashlights for patient observation and care.

On Monday Dr. Asibey and I continued the assessment process and began some introductory trainings for Helping BabiesBreathe® and Essential Care for Every Baby. The nursing and midwife staff began each program with hesitance, but quickly recognized the value and became very enthusiastic learners. It was a great pleasure working with them. We found that the trainings were a great way to elicit information about what was available for patient care and what the staff’s training and capabilities were, much more effective than interview and observation.

Project HOPE volunteer nurse conducts a maternal and newborn healthcare assessment in Sierra Leone.

The overall observation from our time in Sierra Leone is that the local health care professionals are overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for very sick patients with limited supplies. Many are still very passionate about providing the best care possible despite the obstacles. Some are apathetic, but some are still willing to learn and grow. There is good teamwork and camaraderie for the most part.

On Tuesday, just before leaving for Lungi to fly home, I met Osman Kabia, Project HOPE’s Sierra Leone in-Country Consultant. He was delightful, as were all the staff members, and brought a feast prepared by his wife. What gracious and wonderful people are here in Sierra Leone. I am grateful for this opportunity.

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