Honors nursing student Rachel Pruitt‘s first experience working in the maternity ward was an unforgettable one, her first birthing experience drama-filled and breathtaking…not least of all because both were in a hospital in Bolgatanga, Ghana. Thanks to an Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Rachel spent a month in the city working hard both in the classroom and in clinicals — she documents the experience here, with enthusiasm and gratitude.
After traveling for almost three days to get to Bolgatanga, it was finally Day One of our clinic time. After completing all the in-class course work, I was excited to experience clinical work in such a different environment – one that was steaming hot, lacked the resources and comforts of the States, and in which the people spoke a different language. I wasn’t sure how everything was going to play out, which caused me to be nervous but also filled me with excitement for a new adventure in a clinical unlike any I had ever experienced.
I paired up with a fellow, older nursing student, Ali, to go to the maternity ward for our first day. I was excited to be in this unit as I hadn’t taken OB and pediatrics yet, but Ali had; I was expecting (no pun intended) to learn quite a bit today. We began in the prenatal assessment room, where the nurses taught us how to feel, or palpate, for the uterus and the positioning of the baby, as well as how to detect and listen for the fetal heart tones. We were able to learn from the nurses and compare prenatal assessments and documentation as well as many other aspects of womens’ health, whether pregnant or not.
After a couple of hours, our teacher rushed in and said, “They are birthing a baby in here – come!” Ali and I bolted in and were able to be spectators of my very first birth experience! Due to some complications, the woman was moved to the surgery room for an emergency c-section, allowing me to see a bit of both birthing options. I was so overwhelmed in awe and interest as I was able to see all the steps, medical interventions, and preparation as the first baby was delivered – from epidural to incisions to final delivery and cutting of the umbilical cord. However, I was distressed to see that the first baby boy was so blue and limp – but there was still another brother to be delivered. The midwife suctioned and took several steps to initiate breath and life in this child as the surgeon handed the surgical assistant the other child. My heart was racing as one child was fighting for his life and the other broke the silence with the first cry of life. After several minutes, the first baby finally cried – both were now healthy and alive!!!
It was such an amazing experience – my first birthing experience – and in a new and unique environment with unexpected twists and turns that allowed me a matchless learning opportunity. All within a few hours, I was able to participate in the prenatal assessment and then observe both forms of birth with complications, providing me with a deeper learning experience of how to respond and interventions that can be taken. I am fully convinced this study abroad program was the experience of a lifetime – already preparing me for my upcoming semester by providing early exposure and teaching me the best and different techniques in a variety of areas – from wound care to laboratory work to maternity care. I know I am a better person and will be a better nurse as a result of my experiences and travels in Ghana – an opportunity I will forever be grateful for and never, ever forget.