Malawian midwives to share experiences in Aberdeen

Malawian midwives to share experiences in Aberdeen

A group of four midwife educators from Malawi will visit Aberdeen for a month as Commonwealth Professional Fellows to learn more about the training of midwives and the delivery of maternity care in Scotland, as well as clinical mentoring and research.

Their trip has been organised by researchers in the Division of Applied Health Sciences (DAHS) at the University of Aberdeen (Jacqueline Bell in Immpact and Dr Helen Bedford and Dr Alice Kiger in Advanced Studies in Nursing and Midwifery within Academic Primary Care) and the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Robert Gordon University (Jane Geddes, Lynn Grove and Professor Tracy Humphrey), with the participation of maternity care staff from NHS Grampian, NHS Tayside and NHS Highland. 

The fellowships are linked with an ongoing three-year project to enhance and extend the provision of skilled maternity care in Malawi in a bid to reduce maternal deaths. 

This project is funded by the Scottish Government and its aim is to extend the provision of skilled maternity care in rural and remote parts of Malawi by improving the recruitment and retention of midwives in these underserved areas. 

Increasing women’s access to high quality maternity care is the most effective way of reducing deaths amongst women and babies, and this is essential to Malawi’s efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 – the improvement of maternal health, specifically through reduction of the maternal mortality ratio.

The project is focusing on the development and evaluation of an educational programme for a new cadre of midwives, the ‘Community Midwife Assistants’ (CMAs), the first graduates of which have recently started working in rural areas.

Jacqueline Bell, Research Fellow at Immpact – an internationally recognised maternal and newborn health research group based at the University of Aberdeen – said: “The four midwifery tutors visiting us will act as mentors and mentor-trainers within colleges of nursing and midwifery in Malawi.

“The hope is the knowledge and skills we share with them during their visit will be taken back to their country and help improve the quality of maternity care received by women there.

“One of the key issues we will look at is delivering healthcare in remote and rural communities, including methods for retaining skilled staff and the challenges of operating in these geographical areas.”

Jane Geddes, Lecturer/Practitioner from Robert Gordon University, who has been involved in the practical delivery of the specifically designed Malawian Mentorship Programme, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the visiting Malawians to build on the knowledge and skills acquired from the RGU Malawian Mentorship Programme we facilitated in 2013 and 2014.  This visit presents the chance for further discussion and exchange of ideas around embedding mentorship within clinical practice in Malawi. It is exciting and full of potential for the future.”

For two weeks of their visit, the midwife fellows will be sponsored by the University of Aberdeen. During this time they will focus on their own professional development and this will include discussions with research and education staff within DAHS, Immpact, the School of Education and the Centre for Sustainable Development. These opportunities will link to current DAHS research and postgraduate education programmes, particularly the well-established MSc Midwifery.

They will also spend two weeks under the sponsorship of the Robert Gordon University where they will have the opportunity to visit a variety of clinical areas across the North of Scotland, including Peterhead Community Maternity Unit in Grampian, Montrose Birthing Unit in Tayside and the community facility at Fort William in Highland. They will also visit the Centre for Rural Health in Inverness.

The visitors will enhance their working knowledge of mentorship in these clinical areas and undertake a variety of teaching methods within the university setting, by attending sessions with the midwifery teaching team. They will also attend a conference to celebrate the International Day of the Midwife on May 5, organised by midwifery students at Robert Gordon University.

Picture courtesy Donna Murray Photography