Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Headed South

In a few short days I will be off call here in Leafy Corner (phew) and will prepare to take my final practical examinations at school and head south for a few well earned weeks vacation with my family in beautiful New Zealand. Not quite my homeland, but almost, as that's where my Dad hails from.

From there at the end of December I will head for the tiny island nation of Vanuatu, where I will be working as a volunteer midwife at Vila General Hospital, Port Vila for several weeks. It promises to be a fascinating, difficult, exhilarating, lovely time. I'm wildly excited and intermittently terrified. Most students who travel to Vanuatu from my school and others (Seattle's Bastyr University students send their ND/LM students there too) travel in at least pairs. I find myself headed south solo this time. Off to adventure on my own. As I have in the past I expect that this new blog, my first open blog since I took my first Mama Mid(wife) Madness into a slightly more sheltered space for a bit, will become a repository for my experiences in Vanuatu.

I hope this blog will serve a few purposes beside my own selfish need to empty my brain at the end of a shift. I hope that it can shed some light on the practicalities and the intensity of these clinical experiences for students at my school and others who plan on undertaking overseas placements (presently almost the only way for Direct Entry Midwifery students to gain hands-on, in-hospital experience). I hope also that it will serve to enlighten those who wonder about the many and varied ways that student midwives (and their programs) hunt out clinical experience on their way to state licensing or credentialing through NARM here in the US. As I explained to a lovely doc during a quiet moment at a transport the other day: We can't get this experience (of managing several births at once, or in quick succession) in hospitals here in the States, and super high volume homebirth practices are rare here, so we sometimes decide to go abroad at the end of our training to hone our skills while helping understaffed, under-resourced hospital staff and the women and babies they serve.

There exists some debate among the midwifery community about the ethics of (comparatively) wealthy (predominantly white) American women traveling to poor nations to work with communities there. I'm still not entirely clear on how exactly I feel about this issue. I can only submit that I feel like I can help these women and their babies get good care, and lighten the burden of the in-country midwives, if only for a while. I really hope that that can be a force for a balance of good at the end of the day. I'm sure this will be a subject much thought about (and thus written about) along the way. I know that some midwives, midwifery students and others object strenuously to this.

I should say at the outset that I'm not going to engage in any debate, especially the nastiness which so many midwife bloggers have come to expect from certain quarters. I doubt highly that I'll have any energy for it at the end of the day/shift. I expect that I'll occasionally disable comments to some posts. Comments, encouragement and questions will be most gratefully received. Please remember that I'm a student, I'm learning and I expect parts of this journey to be intense and hard. If past experience blogging is any indicator, we can all safely assume that occasionally I will speak(write) rashly. Be patient with me.

Thanks for reading.

I expect to begin blogging in earnest on the first of 2009. Come on back then to see what I'm up to!