Hlalapi Kunkeyani is a Principal Nursing Officer for Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at Kamuzu Central Hospital. She is also one of the two matrons. She started work as a registered nurse midwife in 1996 and has from 1997, been working in the maternity ward. In this interview she shares with Mwereti Kanjo the joys of being a midwife.
Who is a nurse midwife?
This is an individual who has been trained to provide midwifery care to a woman during her pregnancy period, child birth and six weeks after she has delivered. This midwife is autonomous and has the responsibility and potential to take care of a woman with all her means. A good midwife will be able to tell when a situation needs external help because as midwives we have our own scope of practice that allows us to do certain things and not others hence he or she must be able to refer to the next level of care.
How does one become a midwife?
One is only a midwife after they qualify. From secondary school level one must have credits in the science subjects after which they can go and study midwifery at Kamuzu College of Nursing or Mzuzu University. However there are midwives of a lower level that are not trained by these Universities.
On top of the qualification, one must have that unwavering passion for the job.
What sort of training do you go through at the University?
It is in two fold, the theory part of it as well as the practical training. A midwife in training will help deliver antenatal care from conception to the time when a woman is about to deliver, we also provide care to women in labour and those in the pre-perium period (delivery to 42 days after birth). We also practice taking care of the newborn.
Is there a difference between a nurse and a midwife?
The two are different. A nurse midwife is one that has gone through the general nursing course and is mandated to help women deliver. A nurse is somewhat general; they work in all other departments. Think of it as a specialisation within nursing.
What was the experience during your first delivery?
Because I had observed people for so long conduct the deliveries I did it with a little ease. However, at first sight when I attended a delivery it was scary. But with time, I got used to it. My undying passion to take care of pregnant women and their babies triumphed over my fears.
What are the joys of becoming a midwife?
Being a midwife allows you to be the first in a lot of things. You are the first person a pregnant woman will meet, sometimes you are lucky enough to be the first person to tell a woman that she is pregnant and see the joy in her eyes. During delivery, you are the first person to hold that bundle of joy in your arms, even before the mother. There is nothing more fulfilling than a woman’s happiness and joy after you help them deliver.
But, as a midwife, you also empower the women with information that will help the woman, the baby and the entire family. You give a woman the voice to speak up when something is wrong. It is really a beautiful profession.
Are there challenges that midwives are facing in Malawi?
Yes there are. While a midwife is resourceful, we are having challenges of erratic supply of essential resources in our midwifery care like drugs, surgical gloves, detergents, mare papers and so many things that help ease our work.
The other big challenge is the work force. We are over loaded with the work but still we go on. We do our best to face what we encounter.
How can the public help ease your work?
Change of behaviour. We have women who come in when it is too late. There are certain cases that can easily be avoided if women sought care in good time. The public can also help in mobilising resources. I remember at one time I shared with women in the church some of the challenges we face and they managed to fund raise and donate some items. These are small gestures that can go a long way in saving the lives of mothers and babies.
We would also appreciate if those people that have been through the hospitals became advocates of health care systems in their communities. It would make so much difference if people shared what they learnt and experiences with others to encourage them to deliver at the hospitals too.
As we celebrate this year’s International Day of the Midwife, what is your message?
I love my job and I have the passion to take good care of mothers and babies. I would love if more and more people joined the profession to ease the work load but also help increase the numbers of mothers and babies being saved.
We really need to achieve MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) Four and Five. But other than achieving these MGDs, simply, no woman should die while giving life. Pregnancy is not an illness!!