A Midwife’s Bold Commitment to Change in Liberia

Daisy WinnerBlog, Liberia

Far too many women die in childbirth. Far too many newborns never breathe the first breath of their life. Far too many pregnancies remain at-risk from lack of adequate care.

Liberia, where Seed Global Health places nursing and midwifery educators as part of the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP), has fewer than 200 trained midwives for more than 4 million people. To guarantee a women’s right to health care, to save the lives of more mothers, and their babies, a robust workforce of qualified midwives is critical.

Sharika Franklyn, a Global Health Service Partnership Nurse Educator and midwife, works in Liberia, alongside a small but dedicated midwifery faculty at Phebe Paramedical Training Centre, to train and educate the next generation of midwives in the country.

Motivated to strengthen the training of the midwifery students at Phebe, Shakira recently took the lead in planning a  three-day retreat for her colleagues – a first for the department. She hoped that by bringing the faculty together, they could work collaboratively to improve the quality of instruction.

Beginning at the foundation of the program, they primarily focused on strengthening the curriculum. Together they looked at ways to increase the number of resources available to instructors and created resource binders for each course that included syllabi, presentations, and tests to supplement existing materials. They then reviewed the core midwifery courses taught, developed best practices, and established clinical preceptor guidelines.

“I am dedicated to the sustainability of the advancements made through the Phebe and GHSP partnership,” noted Shakira, “because I know that when I leave here there is going to be someone just like me that will be tasked with teaching these courses in an unfamiliar setting. With these new resources, we contribute to the success of the next GHSP Educators as well as the faculty here at Phebe.”

The retreat also had a broader focus in addition to courses and curriculums. As Shakira explained, “I wanted us to look at some of the challenges the department was facing and come up with solutions to those challenges. I want to give them an opportunity to reconnect and get ready to take the teaching to another level.”

To do this Shakira utilized a number of unique methods. “The retreat added elements that would allow us to decompress and enjoy the environment,” said Shakira. They participated in morning meditation sessions, yoga classes, and enjoyed, arts, crafts, and music together.

Shakira has noticed that not only has instruction improved but the comradery amongst the faculty has increased, “There is much less of a disconnect. It brought us together… Coming together to help problem solve was really important. We now have a different vantage point and different energy to approach teaching with.”

Shakira is optimistic that the renewed enthusiasm will continue after her one year at Phebe, “The commitment to midwifery is present. These amazing women are committed to providing the best instruction that they can. They are dedicated to supporting the students and supporting the profession. And in turn supporting the country.”