I was going into my fourth year of Nursing and Midwifery when I decided I wanted to go overseas to take part in a midwifery placement. I chose Vietnam mainly because I have always wanted to go here, I was interested in the culture but also because the reviews I read on the Work the World website sounded amazing! I have always wanted to learn more about healthcare in developing countries, as I believe it is so important to further develop personal skills in the healthcare environment.
My two week placment was in the obstetrics and gynaecology department, alternating between antenatal, the birthing suite, postnatal and the special care nursey. There were a number of differences between the Australian and Vietnamese hospitals and healthcare systems. There were people everywhere in the hospital in Hue, families would never leave, mothers of pregnant women would always be there supporting their daughter which just highlights how important family is for the Vietnamese people. In the antenatal and postnatal wards in most rooms there were about 8 to 10 beds with no privacy or space, to me this was a shock because in Australia the rooms are for 2 people max, however I loved that for these women it didn’t bother them as they all bonded and helped each other which again shows their amazing culture.
The birthing suite was a very different experience to back home. Up to four women would labour in the same room and when they were ready to deliver they would walk down to the delivering room and be put onto monitoring. The doors were left open when the women would deliver, there was no privacy. The women’s partner and family members were not allowed into the delivering room which meant she was delivering on her own. There was also no pain relief besides some local anaesthetic if an episiotomy needed to be performed. I found it hard and confronting watching women deliver with no pain relief, however they were so strong and powerful it was really quite amazing. Under supervision, I was able to help deliver three babies which was an incredible experience. Even though the language barrier was a challenge, I could still connect with them.
On the postnatal ward the Vietnamese women follow the traditional postpartum practice of strict bed rest, this was evident whilst I was there as their mothers would come and help them feed, change the baby, and would massage the new mum making sure she was resting.
Each morning on the postnatal ward the midwives would collect all of the babies and take them into the washroom to bathe them, they would have easily washed 30-40 babies. In Australia the parents are encouraged to wash their babies themselves before they go home, that way the midwives are able to show them tips and tricks. On the postnatal ward I was also able to help clean and change caesarean dressings and administer medications to women if they were in pain or had an infection.
The special care nursery had a lot of similarities to Australia. They had incubators for babies who couldn’t maintain their own body heat as well as phototherapy for jaundice babies. I was quite surprised when I saw the equipment they had and the medications they administered.
The health professionals were amazing in Hue, they were enthusiastic, very clever and friendly, they were really keen to learn English and wanted me to help them as much as I could. The team at the Work the World house were amazing and so incredibly supportive, some days were full on at the hospital so coming home and being able to chat with them was great and helped us all get through it.
I met some wonderful people during my time, the other students at the house were so much fun. We explored Hue together and shared so many good memories.
If I were to give any advice to anyone considering a midwifery placement abroad, it would be to just put yourself out there, say yes to every opportunity because it will be so worth it, not only for your professional practice but also your personal development.
The Work the World team have been amazing, it was such an easy trip to organise and the support was amazing. I would highly recommend this experience!!