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60 seconds with a Medecins Sans Frontieres midwife

Date of Posting: 22-08-2011

Kara Blackburn; nurse and midwife

Kara Blackburn, from Brisbane, joined Médecins Sans Frontières as a nurse/midwife in 2006. Following her first placement in Darfur, Sudan, Kara went on to work in Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.

You have completed three field placements with Médecins Sans Frontières. What has been the most challenging context and why?
Darfur was the most challenging – I was there during a pretty unstable period and there were many security incidents. Additionally, the obstetric work was pretty horrific at times. We were not able to transfer patients due to the security context, which meant we had to deal with many situations in our small field hospital that would normally be treated in a higher-level facility. So I learnt a lot, my clinical skills were challenged enormously, and I dealt with obstetric complications
that I had never been confronted with before.

Describe what life is like for a midwife in the field with Médecins Sans Frontières.
Midwives play a crucial role in the field team. You are on call overnight and are often called in for deliveries and complications. That can be pretty tiring when you also have to work in the hospital during the day. Your clinical skills really need to be of a high calibre because you won’t necessarily have an obstetrician available and you need to deal with complications that you may never have come across before. The skills I learnt in the field really helped me develop as a competent practitioner for my work back in Australia as well.

What is Médecins Sans Frontières’ approach to women’s health?
Every day, approximately 1000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99 percent of all those maternal deaths occur in developing countries. The single biggest factor in reducing maternal mortality is providing skilled care at delivery, particularly through emergency obstetric care. This is where we can make the biggest impact and therefore what we focus on. Women continue to become pregnant and deliver babies during times of conflict and natural disasters and we recognise that they need assistance to access appropriate healthcare services and deliver their baby safely.

Médecins Sans Frontières is always looking for competent nurses and midwives willing to live and work within an international team, share their skills and dedicate their time to support the organisation’s medical humanitarian work around the world. Field workers are insured for health, medical repatriation, death and disability for the period of their project. All costs associated with the work are covered, including travel from home to the project and living expenses while away.

The monthly stipend for people without previous relevant experience for the first 12 months is $1400. To find out more about working with Médecins Sans Frontières, visit www.msf.org.au/joinourteam
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