Nurses and Midwives were at the centre of attraction worldwide on April 7, 2020 on the occasion of World Health Day. The focus this year was to garner support for these men and women in white at the forefront of disease outbreaks. WHO Secretary General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said their role in healthcare cannot be overemphasized: “They are the glue that holds our health systems and outbreaks together.”
Amidst the World Health Day celebrations, CBC Health Services Communications journalist, Akem Olives Nkwain caught up with Mrs. Kenchi Hope, Midwife serving with Cameroon Baptist Health Services, with over 21 years of practice. In the following interview, we propped into her career as a midwife. Excerpts…
Journalist: Mrs. Kenchi, I know you have a very charged schedule but I’m excited that you have allocated time to respond to our questions. What is midwifery to a common man?
Mrs. Kenchi: Thank you for the question and welcome! Midwifery is a profession designed to assist women in receiving babies during delivery. But at a more scholarly level, it is a profession or practice of assisting women in childbirth.
Journalist: What motivated you to get into this profession?
Mrs. Kenchi: To be honest with you I didn’t like midwifery, but I was fished out and today I love it so much. I want to give thanks to late Sister Cathy Kroll. I think she had a vision about me being a part of this profession because in my class, she singled me out and kept on motivating me. I vividly remember how she commented on one of the test papers saying, “Hope, wake up and be a talented maternity staff.” Though I obtained top grades in maternity nursing back then in school, I didn’t like the profession at all. But thanks for the continuous and unending encouragement from Late Sister Cathy Kroll, I braved and went into midwifery and I have come to realize over time that it is where I was meant to be.
Journalist: After all that push you took up midwifery and you’ve been practicing for 21 years now, can you tell us some of the most exciting moments you’ve had in this profession?
Mrs. Kenchi: Oh! (Smiling..) I can imagine someone who comes in, convulsing, preeclampsia and then I follow up, get my right diagnosis, administer treatment and in no distance time I receive a life baby with the mother being alive. That alone gives me joy. I equally derive excitement and happiness at the Antenatal Clinic (ANC) where I find expectant mothers presenting varied complications but in the end, God helps me to find the right solution. When that happens I am like that is where I’m supposed to be. It’s really a joy to be there! Besides, I am equally excited when women come to me expressing fears over Caesarean Section (C-Section), with many seeing it like a taboo and after counseling them one-on-one many just give in easily. I feel happy that many women today consider C-Section as any birth method because my goal over the years has been to have safe mothers and safe babies and not the delivery method.
Journalist: When the word midwife is mentioned, most people refer to a female worker but today we have men who are in the practice. So how do expectant mothers feel when it is a ‘male’ midwife who has to attend to them?
Mrs. Kenchi: Finding out about their expectation, a majority of those I’ve talked to and related with during their labour session say that ‘my male colleagues are better hand in handling deliveries’. However, I still have an issue with the Fulani women, which is their culture that men don’t attend to them. So once they express a ‘no’ to a male attendant, we switch assignments to meet needs.
Journalist: A total of 21-years of practice as a midwife is quite a lot of time, why have you committed these years in this profession?
Mrs. Nkenchi: I’m so grateful to God that I’m a midwife today. I equally want to thank late Sister Cathy Kroll who kept encouraging me to be a part. Though I didn’t like the profession from the outset, today it’s part of me. Even in my sleep, my phone is always on and I don’t feel drowsy when a call to duty comes in. I’m always ready. I recall one time I told my husband that my job is my first husband and what I wanted him to do is to support me. The support I needed from him was to accompany me once I receive a call or allow me to go to work. Another thing that has pushed and kept me in this profession over the years is the love for my children. I’m equally grateful to the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services for supporting me all the way in this profession. The organization always allows me to be part of refreshers and to be abreast with the trends in this field.
Journalist: Talking with a broad smile on, one can be tempted to say your work over the years has been on a smooth ride. But tell us the other difficult side of the story. Are there any challenges or were there times you felt like you were not respected for the work you do?
Mrs. Nkenchi: I’ve had a fair share of challenges. I want to thank God for he didn’t give me a spirit of timidity. I’ve had challenges with doctors where I’m proposing a particular protocol and since they are not used to, it is difficult for them to adopt. The moment we have issues with drug dosage, some staff will be like in my school we taught this or that dosage. In such a moment, I tell them there is CBC Health Services protocol in place and it’s what I stand for. There was a time I felt like my job was not respected when my next-door neighbor quite close to the health unit delivered her baby at home while I was at work all night waiting for her. If she had died I would have been responsible, so I felt my job was not respected.
Journalist: The focus of this year’s World Health Day was “Support Midwives and Nurses” as front liners in healthcare delivery. What does it mean to you as person?
Mrs. Nkenchi: It took me unawares. When I heard about it I was like wow! So there is somebody out there thinking about us. This has motivated me to know now that there is recognition. You know 20 years back midwifery was likened to be a job reserved for the dull ones. I still remember in Banso Baptist Hospital when a colleague from another ward said they have chosen just the dull ones and dumped in the maternity. But I must say we are far smarter because we at the maternity work on two people at a go, and to have them alive is not easy. By this large call to action to support nurses and midwives is an indication that they are treasures in healthcare.
Journalist: Now, if there is a message you want to address to leaders to support midwives to operate at their best and full potential, what will that be?
Mrs. Nkenchi: I will like to say that leaders should always furnish us with updates as well as organize refreshers to keep us abreast with maternal and neonatal care. I equally employ them to always pass by and give us a tap on the back.
Journalist: Mrs. Kenchi Hope, any last words as we end here?
Mrs. Nkenchi: I want to encourage nurses and midwives that those mothers they care for are our heartbeats and when [we] they discharge [our] their duties, [we] they should do it with no compromise. I encourage them to exhibit honesty and humility in this noble profession.