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From the frontlines of care: Q&A with Ugandan midwife Venny Musasizi

Venny and fellow midwife from Kabale demonstrate how to safely insert and remove contraceptive implants during the

Venny and fellow midwife from Kabale demonstrate how to safely insert and remove contraceptive implants during the "Mini University" segment at the Nurses and Midwives Symposium. Photo by Gillian Leitch for Jhpiego Uganda.

By Gillian Leitch, Jhpiego Uganda

At the 2017 Nurses and Midwives Symposium in Kampala, Uganda, I had the opportunity to speak with Venny Musasizi, an inspiring midwife working in one of the hardest to reach districts in Uganda. The symposium was co-hosted by Jhpiego, Seed Global Health, Peace Corps and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and brought together more than 100 nurses and midwives from across Uganda as well as Ministry of Health officials, academic institutions and international donors.

Could you introduce yourself, and tell us a little about the health center and region where you work?

My name is Venny Musasizi and I have been a midwife for more than 18 years. I studied in Mutolere School of Nursing and Midwifery and trained in Mutolere Hospital. I currently work as a Registered Midwife in Mparo Health Center IV in Kabale District. Kabale is a mountainous district in south-western Uganda, along the border with Rwanda. Given the terrain, it can be difficult to get around in Kabale and many health facilities are located in remote areas, far off the main road. It has made it difficult for us to attract and retain highly qualified health care workers.

What initially inspired you to become a nurse/midwife and what continues to inspire you today?

I was inspired by my grandfather to become a midwife. My grandfather was a traditional birth attendant and he would allow me to watch him while he cared for mothers and delivered babies. I was always excited to see a pregnant woman come in and then leave with a happy, healthy baby. I was also encourage to become a health worker by my biology teach in secondary school. He helped me focus my studies and supported me to pursue a career related to science. 

What lessons have you learned through your work?
 
Some of the most important lessons that I have learned are about what leads to a successful delivery. First, antenatal care visits are incredibly important. If you encourage mothers to take up healthy practices early on in their pregnancy and ensure they stay healthy throughout, you will get good results at the time of delivery and postnatal. Additionally, it is very important to speak with women about engaging their husbands to ensure they have a safe delivery. I encourage all couples to come in before the birth to discuss and develop a birth plan. And lastly, a careful midwife leads to a successful delivery. If you are careful, you will have a successful delivery. I’ve also learned about the power of women to carry on positive messages about health. I have seen this with family planning and HIV testing. Once a message is passed on to a mother, it is passed on to a nation.
 
Describe one of the greatest challenges of working as a nurse/midwife.
 
Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is that midwives are not appreciate for what we do. Despite all of the work that we do, we still lack the support. From the national level, to the district level, to the facility level, we do not get the same recognition as other health providers for the work that we do.
 
What advice would you give to nursing and midwifery students today?
 
I would advise nursing and midwifery students today to stick with the profession and take it to heart. While it may not be the highest paying profession, you are rewarded everyday doing the job by saving the lives of children and mothers.
 
The health needs of populations and communities are constantly evolving and new issues continue to arise. How do you stay up-to-date and aware of the latest technologies and innovations in the health sector?
 
I typically get information about updates in reproductive, maternal and newborn health practices from the implementing partners who we work with. Especially the organizations that are working closely with our facility, like Jhpiego and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. They provide us with job aids, trainings and email updates.
 
How do you think nurses and midwives in Uganda could be better supported to provide quality health services to their communities?
 
Nurses and midwives should be supported more to continue their education once they are practicing. There should be more opportunities for them to go back to school to gain more knowledge and skills and be exposed to the latest approaches to health care delivery. Even in school, midwifery must be better prioritized and appreciated.