Stories from the Field: Zambia

​Stories from t​he field - Zam​bia

​Last year, in November of 2011, I had the honor and privilege to be a part of a mission team that took the Helping Babies Breath Program to the Copper belt region of Zambia, Africa. The team, with the nonprofit organization called Tiny People Matter, was a group of 8 healthcare professionals, all trained in the Helping Babies Breath Program, who took their time and talent to serve as instructors of this most important program. We trained ~100 doctors, nurses, midwives, and traditional birthing assistants the important concept of The Golden Minute. 

I was so pleased by the enthusiasm and desire to learn that we encountered there, followed by the commitment to then teach this program to others. The use of small group instruction made back and forth exchange between the participants and instructors flow with ease. We used the model of 2 instructors to 4-6 learners. The learners seemed to feel more comfortable in this setting to ask questions more freely. Even the men in the groups got rapidly into the role playing, becoming quite impressive (and vocal) “delivering mothers”. 

Some of the teaching methods that we as a team found helpful were, first, of course, get to know your audience. We started by asking a little about each of our participants, getting to know what their jobs entailed and what resources were available to them in that job. I believe this helped make the participants more at ease with us and each other. 

Second, as we had very mixed groups (from doctors to traditional birthing assistants), it was important for us to make sure everyone had the basic skills of bulb syringe suctioning and bag mask ventilation mastered before moving on to the birthing scenarios. Once these skills were mastered I think the participants were more at ease and ready for the role play scenarios. 

It was wonderful to see, as the different paired participants did their birthing scenarios, that others in the group would try to help them if they forgot some component in the HBB sequence. This fostered a teamwork kind of atmosphere and kept everyone engaged and learning from each other. The lines between the doctors and the birthing assistances faded away in this shared experience. Everyone was in the same quest to master this knowledge. 

I was so impressed with the commitment of the healthcare professionals that we met. Even with such limited resources they give their all to do the most with what they have. Their enthusiasm and desire to make a difference is palpable and humbling. 

At the graduation ceremony that we held at the civic center, with the Mayor and Minister of Health in attendance, the excitement and the energy in the air was amazing. Several of the newly taught HBB instructors had classes of their own set up in the following days. Others, after being up all night at work, and then traveling to the graduation ceremony, were going home to “practice” so they would be ready to teach their own classes. 

Our team thought it was of the utmost importance to have this ceremony and ensure that these new instructors were acknowledged by the local government and really empowered to take this teaching out into the community. They were given a certificate signed by the Minister of Health and had their picture taken receiving their certificate from the Mayor. Our personal gift to honor each of the graduates was their own stethoscope. 

Another important component of insuring that the Helping Babies Breath Program moves forward once the teaching is done, is to make sure that the supplies needed to accomplish this are available to the new instructors. Our team set up three of the local hospitals as the supply centers. They were each given a whole Neonatal Natalie Kit (which the instructors will sign out for their classes and then return), several copies of the tests/checklists, and 15-20 backpacks per institution to distribute as needed to the outlying communities once they have received the teaching. 

Each backpack contained an ambu bag, a bulb syringe, scissors, cord tie, 2 blankets, a hat, hand sanitizer, bar soap, and a plastic diaper pad to use as a clean place to set up as a resuscitation area as needed. Tiny People Matter’s goal is to eventually ensure that each person who delivers babies will one day have their own backpack of supplies. Having these supplies empowers the healthcare professionals who have received the instruction to actually provide the HBB care as needed. 

The Tiny People Matter motto is to: Educate, Encourage and Empower and I believe that this goal was achieved during our trip. 

The team’s next trip is in November of 2012 when 12 HBB trainers will be going to the northern provinces of Zambia to continue our quest to have an HBB trained person at all deliveries in all of Zambia! 

Linda Owens CRNP, Tiny People Matter​​

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