Uganda Christian University launches master’s in midwifery program
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/02/uganda-christian-university-launches-masters-in-midwifery-program/
Uganda Christian University (UCU) is launching a new program – a master’s course in midwifery and women’s health – under its School of Medicine. At the request of UCU Partners, Ugandan writer Constantine Odongo had a chat with Elizabeth Namukombe Ekong, a lecturer in the medical school’s nursing department. What follows is some of this conversation related to the new program.
What programs are under the department of nursing?
We have undergraduate and master’s programs in the department. In the Bachelor of Nursing Science, which began in 2006, we have two entry points – nurses with diploma, but want to get bachelors; and the direct entry right from S6 (high school graduation). The completion program takes three years for nurses already experienced, while the other entry takes four years. The master’s in nursing started in 2008. We are now introducing the master’s in midwifery and women’s health.
When does the new course start?
In 2017, the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) approved our curriculum, but we have not had the personnel the NCHE insisted on. They insisted on staff with master’s degrees in midwifery, yet most of us have masters in nursing. We have been looking around for personnel. The challenge we have had is that in Uganda, only one university has been offering this course, so not many people have the skill set that NCHE required. The other challenge is many people who opt to pursue master’s degree studies are already established somewhere else. So, it is not for us to uproot them from their already set systems. There are some people who have expressed interest, so the university actually put up advertisements in January, calling for people to apply for the position of lecturer in midwifery. As this year (2020) is the Year of the Nurse and Midwife (designated by the World Health Assembly under the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale), it is appropriate that UCU starts the master’s in midwifery.
Which people are you working with to ensure that the program kicks off?
We are trying to put up a team as NCHE recommended. The other thing is we have partners who are professors with PhDs in midwifery and are willing to come and teach and also offer online interactions, since the program design is a modular one. We have two professors from the United States – one from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and another from Bethel University in Minnesota. They are ready to start the teaching in May, if we have set our intake to start and we have finally got the required number of students, the personnel and the clearance from NCHE. We are making arrangements for the professors to come and make the physical preparations. We expect the face-to-face teaching to happen three times a year.
Who helped you design the curriculum for the midwifery master’s course?
We developed it from a prototype curriculum that was designed from a program by the East, Central and South African College of Nursing (ECSACON). The ECSACON prototype is the same that many universities in the region use to develop their curriculum. We undertook a study to review the status of midwifery in the region and established that there was a need to provide a platform for the existing midwifery cadres to upgrade their skills at master’s level. When developing the curriculum, some of the areas the study looked at is the number of midwives in the country, the mortality rates, etc. From the ECSACON prototype curriculum, we developed ours for the master’s course, with assistance from colleagues in the UK. When we were satisfied that it was ready, we passed it through the approval process up to the university Senate and the NCHE. With the approval in 2017, it meant that the moment we get the relevant personnel with a master’s degree in midwifery, we would be ready to start.
What achievements has the nursing department registered?
We have developed skilled competent and dependable nurses with the passion and faith to render services across the continent, but also offer leadership. Our graduates have been absorbed in different institutions, both state and non-state and the feedback we get about their conduct is encouraging. We have had collaborations with facilities where we send our students for placement, like Uganda-China Friendship Hospital Naguru, the hospitals of Nsambya, Mulago, Butabika, Jinja referral and many others.
Some of our students are Assistant District Health Officers, and some are in charge of medical facilities and in other leadership positions in hospitals. Others are working at the Ministry of Health.
What is in the curriculum for the midwifery master’s program that you are soon launching?
The curriculum is designed with two tracks: Education and Practice as the program prepares educators and practitioners We have areas of midwifery education, which involves teaching and learning, curriculum development, measurement and evaluation; we also have an area on research and statistics. We have another area of midwifery leadership courses and management, so our students are able to graduate with better management and leadership skills.
There are foundation science courses like pathophysiology, pharmacology, and advanced health assessment in maternal and infant care. Other profession-based foundation courses offer an opportunity for the students to learn theories in nursing/midwifery, together with advanced courses in normal and abnormal midwifery. With other partner universities both here in Uganda and beyond, we share courses to do with cultural diversity, trends and issues in midwifery, neonatal and women’s health. Students also go for an international module (internship) to strengthen their teaching approaches and clinical experiences.
The students also take selected courses in advanced clinical practice from areas of their desired specialty in maternal and child health. Health care systems is another course taught to enable students understand the major elements, dynamics, determinants and organizational themes in public health, policy issues and health financing.
How have you taken care of the developments in information and communications technology as far as your course is concerned?
We intend not to leave our graduates behind as far as information and communications technology is concerned. We have lined up a course in informatics, which involves the application of technology in what they learn. We expect to take the students through online healthcare packages, how they can remotely follow up on patients and network with the online medical ecosystem in order to know a patient’s medical history and other things.
Many women, especially those in rural areas, still opt for traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to deliver them, citing harassment from midwives. What is your department doing to reverse this phenomenon?
We always emphasize professional ethics and Christian values in our students and that is why we have faith-based and foundation courses to see how virtues of the respect for one’s work is instilled and how the students ought to relate with their clients. In the midwifery curriculum, for instance, we have integrated Christian worldview to help students relate and handle our clients from a Christian perspective.
Why should we separate nursing from midwifery? Would it be better to equip the students with both skills, so the medical field gets multi-skilled professionals?
At UCU, the Bachelor of Nursing Science teaches concepts of both nursing and midwifery, just like the undergraduate course, which teaches medicine and surgery. The specialization occurs only at post-graduate level. That said, there are universities that offer bachelor’s degrees in midwifery. It’s also important to note the difference between the work of a midwife and a nurse. A midwife’s work involves care for women and families whereas a nurse is involved with the general health of everyone. Midwives focus on women, children, pregnant women, reproductive health issues and educating the community about the same.
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