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Midwifery in a global context, instrumental to student development

Photo: Health Times Magazine
Understanding midwifery from a global perspective, particularly within culturally diverse nations, is instrumental to the development and training of Australian midwives, says Charles Darwin University Lecturer in Midwifery, Mpho Dube.

Which is why Ms Dube has spearheaded the international placement of Charles Darwin University midwifery students in Bali for the past four years

“The placement itself was prompted by a need to promote students' understanding factors that affect and promote global maternal and neonatal wellbeing,” says Ms Dube.

“By stepping outside the Australian context into a country that is culturally diverse, and has different health systems and economic resources, students can gain more insight into how midwives in different contexts practice.”

Ms Dube says it’s also important that students from host countries benefit from the placement, by learning about midwifery practices in Australia.
“The students are able to build relationships and exchange knowledge about midwifery in their contexts.

“They learn a lot from each other through exploring the similarities and differences in how they practice.”

The Charles Darwin University placement is funded by the New Colombo plan, with students receiving a $3,000 grant to help them to cover costs for the duration of the placement.

The placement is part of a theory unit called Midwifery in Global Perspectives which aims to give midwifery students an opportunity to experience midwifery in a setting that is different from Australia.

“Students visit an array of maternity services in Bali, immerse themselves in the Balinese culture and work alongside the Balinese midwives.

“In 2019 we changed the placement arrangement, further collaborating with two Schools of Midwifery in Bali to ensure that CDU students worked alongside Balinese students in the clinical areas.

“We then conducted a joint research project to understand ways that promote shared learning between students from host and visiting countries during short term international placements.”

Ms Dube, who has been nominated for a Ryan Family Award for her dedication to the shared learning experiences for CDU and Balinese midwifery students, says it takes a lot to arrange the placement, but it’s well worth it for the mutual benefits for students in both countries.

“Giving students a unique opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone is important for me.”

Angela Bull, CDU Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, who nominated Ms Dube for the award, says her previous experience working in midwifery in Zimbabwe and in Australia placed her in a unique position to gain access to Bali’s health system.

“Her experience of walking two worlds of health and maternity services has enabled Mpho to effectively use her negotiation skills, and her respectful communication style allows her to navigate Indonesia’s patriarchal and deeply cultural society and health system for the best outcomes for midwifery student placement opportunities,” says Ms Bull in her nomination.

“This collaboration has seen opportunities for midwifery staff and students to be practically involved a wide range of maternity services in Bali, including private midwifery birthing centres, public health centres, village midwifery, and large public and private hospitals.

“The experience is rich and profound for students and staff.”

While Ms Dube says the opportunity enhances students' personal and professional growth, she also personally benefits from the experience.

“In an online learning environment, you do not have an opportunity to interact with students for a period of two weeks.

“Having close personal contact with students provides an opportunity for the students and academics who attend the placement to support and learn from each other.

“We all leave our families at home and the success of the placement depends on the bond and teamwork that we foster during the two weeks.”

Throughout the placement, Ms Dube also leads initiatives to contribute to Balinese health services, such as coordinating a toy drive for toys to be gifted to the Balinese public health centres and an orphanage.

Ms Dube says the research project demonstrates that strong partnerships between countries are crucial to implementing strategies for improving global maternal and neonatal well-being.

“Working with Balinese researchers has also improved my knowledge and understanding of how to work and communicate with people from cultures that are different from mine.

“The lifelong growth that comes with stepping outside of a person's comfort zone is a phenomenal.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.