Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Our Exciting First Week of midwifery in Vietnam!

After check in and a team photo we were finally boarding. The long, overnight haul had finally begun after weeks of planning, preparation and excitement. Two stopovers and rough nights' ‘sleep’ saw us to Ho Chi Minh City where we had the afternoon to settle in, a welcome dinner of local cuisine, and an early night. Monday morning was here, time to pack up, board the bus and move onto Vinh Long. 

We dumped our bags at the hotel, were fed an enormous lunch that could quite easily have fed us for days and made our way to the hospital for a tour. Waiting at the steps of hospital were the beaming smiles of staff and translators. As we made our way through the corridors, locals stared, waved, giggled and followed us. It was clear we were going to be welcomed, it was also clear this was not a place that foreigners frequented.

The staff proudly walked us through their hospital and sat us down in the meeting room for an official welcoming. If you’re a health professional student you know this kind of welcoming doesn’t happen at home (well it certainly doesn’t in Australia). We felt like royalty and were all thrilled to finally be here.

We later left the hospital and made our way through the local supermarket collecting some basic supplies. Once again the locals looked on intrigued that white Aussies were wandering through their supermarket. Tuesday was here, day 1 of placement! It was very different to home, there was no patient hand over, we had no idea of the daily routine and yet we all drifted off into our own areas and began to immerse ourselves in the women, babies and families. It was difficult, we looked at babies, smiled and felt unsure exactly where to begin. This didn’t last long... as we were collected and off on ward rounds, showering babies, hands deeps in welcoming new arrivals or practicing our ultrasound skills. 

Ward rounds were not like home, for one patient’s don’t get privacy like we are used to. Woman sharing birth rooms, or being examined surrounded by others was something we were just not used to but here in Vietnam it was completely the norm, they know no other way, and it was time we got used to it. The other thing we had to get used to was working through interpreters or communicating without one if they were busy in other room. I think we all left our first day feeling relieved, exhausted and excited for day 2 of placement. As the week went on we moved throughout the various areas of the maternity/obstetrics unit. We all faced different challenges and were given new opportunities that we know we wouldn’t get at home. 

 We had all collected donations of new and pre loved baby goodies to which we made into packs for the women. Their faces were often blank when we handed these out. In shock that they were given something and unsure of exactly what was inside. If you walked back to the room a half an hour later the baby was often dressed in your clothes and snuggly wrapped in the blanket you had gifted. A warm smile was exchanged and it was clear they were appreciative. After all these women were not used to receiving things from the hospital in fact it’s quite the opposite. The women themselves provide everything they need to birth at the hospital from disposable mess mats to food, so they hardly expect to be handed a collection of brightly coloured baby goods. 

As the week draws to a close I think we can all proudly say we all survived week one! Mainly because we all came with no expectations, embraced opportunities and, importantly, supported each other through challenges big and small, personal and professional. I feel like next week with be filled with new challenges as some have been overcome and new ones arise. We are all craving a home cooked meal (or at the very least vegemite on toast) and missing loved ones (both two and four legged)!

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