In early February, the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) in the UTS Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health held a special induction program for eight expert clinical midwifery facilitators, recruited to work with their educator counterparts at four midwifery schools in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Funded by AusAID and run in collaboration with the World Health Organization PNG Office (WHO PNG) and the PNG National Department of Health, this Maternal and Child Health Initiative targets midwifery education in PNG. These eight midwives will provide support to the education and midwifery training systems across the country with the purpose of improving PNG’s progression towards the Millennium Development Goals in improving maternal health, alongside two obstetricians also recruited through the program.
The Director of the Initiative, Professor Caroline Homer, said that this work will make an important contribution to improving maternal and infant health.
The four day induction at UTS was designed to introduce, prepare and support the eight expert midwives before they embark on their facilitator roles in PNG over the next two years. It will be followed by a two week intensive induction program in PNG with the WHO PNG office, the two obsetricians and each midwife’s counterpart whom they will be working closely with and mentoring over the next few years.
The main objectives of the UTS induction were to introduce the key personnel of the WHO PNG Maternal and Child Health program and understand their roles; explore the scope and practice of the eight clinical midwifery facilitators and key WHO PNG personnel; raise awareness of the complex health and cultural issues in PNG and build on previous knowledge and share experiences of working in the program.
Induction sessions included strategic priorities, the role and responsibilities of the midwifery facilitator, logistics, support and communication, relationship building and research reflection.
"It was great to come together as a collective group before the midwifery team go off to work in-country in their facilitator roles. Five midwives in the group have already been recently working in similar roles over in PNG so they also had valuable knowledge and experience to share with the group," said Michele Rumsey, Director of Operations and Development in the WHO CC UTS.
One of the midwives returning to PNG as part of this program said, "I’ve been working in Port Moresby as a clinical midwifery facilitator for the past five months. I am keen to return and get straight back into it because I have already established relationships with midwifery students and educators in that area and I was starting to see positive change."
"The induction session has been a good bonding experience and gives us the change to meet the new midwives entering the program. We’re able to share our past experiences and learn from each other to improve, enhance and achieve the main objectives of the program – improve maternal health in PNG," she said.
One of the new midwives in the program said, “I worked in PNG a few years ago for one month, as a midwifery educator which was part of an AusAID project. I’ve always been interested in capacity building projects from other experiences I’ve had working in other developing countries like Africa. When I came across the WHOCC program I contacted Michele Rumsey for more information. I applied for the position in late 2011 and now I'm moving to PNG to start my role as one of the eight clinical midwifery facilitators."
"This initiative will support the education programs and national educators already in place at the PNG universities. We will work in teams alongside obstetricians and other health care workers both onsite [at the universities] and off site [in hospitals and regional/rural areas] to enhance midwifery education and practice and facilitate improved standards of care," she said.
The midwives will be working in pairs at midwifery schools in Port Moresby and in the regional areas of Goroka and Madang from March 2012. Each midwife will work with their national educator counterpart to carry out their roles as clinical midwifery facilitators with the aim to improve maternal health, practice and care in PNG.
The induction also marked the beginning of the research component of the initiative, which will follow the successes and challenges of this model of health development over the next two years and undertake an important monitoring and evaluation role.