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Papua New Guinea (PNG) is Australia’ nearest neighbour, about 150 km from the top of the mainland and only a few kilometres from some of the Torres Strait Islands. Despite its proximity to Australia, PNG has one of the highest rates of Maternal Mortality. A woman in PNG is 80 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Australia. There are multiple intersecting reasons for this, including lack of, or difficult access to midwifery services due to remoteness and geographical challenges.
The midwifery education program at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) is addressing some of the access issues through taking midwifery to women in remote villages. The midwifery students in the PAU Bachelor of Midwifery program undertake a 280-hour, 8-week Rural Health Care Practicum experience towards the end of their studies. This year, the experience involved taking midwifery care up and over mountainous terrain and over open seas to deliver care to isolated women and families, or as the students describe – reaching out to the unreached. The midwifery students were accompanied by their Course Coordinator and Lecturer.
The clinical practicum experience involves the students providing sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn care to remote communities and also undertaking community assessment projects like improving sanitation facilities, so their practicum has a lasting impact. The five-hour walk to the village up mountains and over rivers contributes to students’ understanding of the difficulties these communities face in accessing Universal Health Care and allows them to ‘walk a mile’ in others’ footsteps, thus developing empathy and understanding of the significant issues faced.
This presentation provides a voice for the Bachelor of Midwifery students and staff to describe their experiences and discuss significant learning resulting from being together at the top (of the mountain) with women and communities in remote PNG.
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