Lessons Learned Preparing Volunteer Midwives for Service in Haiti: After the Earthquake

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Introduction:Midwives for Haiti is an organization that focuses on the education and training of skilled birth attendants in Haiti, a country with a high rate of maternal and infant mortality and where only 26% of births are attended by skilled health workers. Following the 2010 earthquake, Midwives for Haiti received requests to expand services and numerous professional midwives answered the call to volunteer. This author was one of those volunteers. The purpose of the study was: 1) to develop a description of the program's strengths and its deficits in order to determine if there was a need to improve the preparation of volunteers prior to service and 2) to make recommendations aimed at strengthening the volunteers' contributions to the education of Haiti and auxiliary midwives.Methods:Three distinct but closely related questionnaires were developed to survey Haitian students, staff midwives, and volunteers who served with Midwives for Haiti. Questions were designed to elicit information about how well the volunteers were prepared for their experience, the effectiveness of translation services, and suggestions for improving the preparation of volunteers and strengthening the education program.Results:Analysis of the surveys of volunteers, staff, midwives, and the Haitian students generated several common themes. The 3 groups agreed that the volunteers made an effective contribution to the program of education and that the volunteer midwives need more preparation prior to serving in Haiti. The 3 groups also agreed on the need for better translators and recommended more structure to the education program.Discussion:The results of this study are significant to international health care organizations that use volunteer health care professionals to provide services. The results support a growing body of knowledge that international health aid organizations may use to strengthen the preparation, support, and effectiveness of volunteer health providers.

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