A day in my shoes in West Africa: Stories from a Midwife

Paige McDaniel, Certified Nurse Midwife

In honor of National Midwifery Week, we met up with Paige McDaniel, one of HealthNet’s many excellent midwives! Paige recently traveled to Liberia, West Africa to conduct a needs assessment and help nursing staff in Liberia update protocols. Check out Paige’s incredible story about her trip to West Africa and delivering twin baby boys!

Q: Tell us about your recent trip to Liberia, West Africa?

A: I was in Monrovia, the capitol of Liberia for two weeks at the beginning of September with my faculty advisor from IU’s School of Nursing, getting started on the required Inquiry Project for my DNP program. I hope to transition my career into global midwifery education and development, and for this project, I plan to implement a midwifery education intervention around the issue of postpartum hemorrhage management. Liberia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world because of bleeding during and after childbirth, so the need is very great.

Q: Walk us through a day in your shoes in Liberia.

A: For this first trip, I was working under my advisor as part of her larger USAID-funded grant to develop nursing and midwifery education in Liberia. My purpose on this visit was to conduct a clinical practice needs assessment pilot study to assess the clinical knowledge of the hospital nurses and midwives, and help the nursing staff there begin to refine outdated institutional protocols and identify clinical areas where new protocols need to be developed. I was not there as a patient provider per se, and much of my time was spent working with nursing and midwifery leadership at the country’s only tertiary facility, John F Kennedy Memorial Hospital. Specifically, I worked with midwife and nurse leaders to develop modules to assess staff competencies in three clinical areas, including a simulation involving postpartum hemorrhage for the hospital midwives.

Q: What was the most satisfying part about your trip?

A: I think the most satisfying part of my time in Monrovia was simply the relationships I built with the nurses and midwives at the hospital, as well as other Liberians I was privileged to meet. The country recently emerged from a brutal, 13 year Civil War so in addition to having to completely rebuild the country’s infrastructure, many people are still quite reserved and often guarded. Everyone I met was always welcoming and hospitable, but by the end of the two weeks, I knew that I had made some genuine friendships.  I will be back in Monrovia a few more times for this project, so truly getting to know some of the people there was very important to me.

Incidentally, I also had the surprise pleasure delivering twin boys as I was pulled into the delivery room one day during my first week by one of the midwives! This is something many CNMs practicing in the United States don’t have the opportunity to do, so I very much enjoyed this professional “first”! 

Q: What is the one thing you wish you could tell others about being a midwife?

A: Being a midwife is absolutely the most rewarding profession that I can imagine for myself. Regardless if I ultimately find myself in direct clinical care “catching babies”, educating a new generation of midwives in the classroom, or working in public policy to help strengthen health care for women and children, I will be forever honored to stand next to my sister midwives as we engage in the work of our hearts.

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