Hesperian Health Guides
Share what you know
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Along with learning from books and teachers, midwives learn much of what they know from each other and from the families they care for. And midwives can improve health by sharing what they know with the community.
Midwives can work together to help each other. If one midwife becomes sick or cannot work, another midwife can help the women she was caring for. Midwives can also learn from and teach each other. In some communities, midwives and other health workers share information with each other, talking honestly about their work. Some midwives come together to meet every few months, compare information, and share resources. At midwife meetings you can:
- take turns telling stories about births you have attended. Be sure to share the difficult births and mistakes. Admitting mistakes is difficult, but it is a great gift when there is an opportunity to learn from them. Other midwives can explain what they would have done the same or differently. To protect the mother’s privacy, do not share her name.
- ask other health workers to come meet with your group. For example, an herbalist could come talk about local plants that can fight infections. Or a midwives group could talk with nurses from a local maternity center about how midwives and nurses can work together.
- share educational books (including this one!) with other midwives. If no one has much money, perhaps a group of midwives can put their money together to buy a book to share.
- practice helping women with different problems by acting them out (role play). For example, one person can pretend to be a pregnant woman who is not eating enough healthy food. Another person can pretend to be her midwife — listening and giving advice. Afterwards, each actor can explain how she felt, and the others in the group can offer suggestions for what they would do differently. Make sure everyone has a chance to play one of the roles.
- make use of different midwives' skills. If one midwife knows how to read, she can read aloud from books to the other midwives. A midwife who knows how to sterilize tools can teach the others in the group.
As a midwife, you give advice, treat problems, even save lives. But the overall health of those around you is not in your hands alone. In part, this is because people decide for themselves how to eat, how to do their work, and what choices they make. By teaching and sharing information, midwives can help people to make their own choices more wisely. This is why your first job as a midwife is to teach.
Teaching can happen anywhere and anytime. During a checkup, when you explain to a woman why you are asking each question, you are teaching her. When you show a woman’s husband why family planning is his responsibility too, you are teaching him. Even at the market, at a community gathering, or anytime you meet with others, you have the chance to teach.
There are probably topics that many people in the community could benefit from learning about. If possible, call meetings for pregnant women, families, or other community members to teach about health and birth. You can teach about:
- how the body works.
- how to choose and use family planning.
- how to eat and care for yourself in pregnancy.
- how to have a safer birth.
- how to care for yourself after a birth and how to breastfeed.
Teaching is a skill, and it takes practice. A good place to start is by listening. When you find out what people already know, you can help them build on that knowledge. And when you listen, you will learn from those you are teaching.
For example, if a group of women wants to learn about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you can first ask each person to share what she knows about STIs. Women may know about STIs from books or classes, from talking to other women, or from having had infections themselves.
After people have shared their knowledge, find out what questions they have. People in the group may be able to answer each other’s questions. You can probably add some important medical information and point out when people have incorrect beliefs too. By encouraging the group to talk, you find out what they really need to know — and help them understand how much knowledge they already have. A person who feels confident that she understands a problem is more able to work to solve it.
Show respect for the people you teach, and be sure that what you say is meaningful to their lives.
- Sit in a circle with everyone on the same level. This puts you in the same place as everyone else, and shows that you are not the only one with knowledge.
- Be prepared. Think about what you want to share before you start teaching.
- Use many methods to teach. People learn differently, and everyone learns better when they learn the same thing in different ways. After you talk with the group about STIs, the group could act out a play about them. Or make posters about STIs to share with the community.
know, what they want to learn, and what obstacles they face.
Remember, some people are used to speaking up in groups. Others may be afraid. Encourage women, those who have little schooling, or anyone who usually keeps quiet to share his or her thoughts. For more ideas on how to teach so people can truly learn, see Helping Health Workers Learn.
With accurate information, each woman has the ability to understand her body and to make wise decisions about her health. Each time you meet with a woman during pregnancy or for other care, explain what you are doing and why. Answer any questions the woman has about her body or her health.
Admit what you do not know
No one knows every answer. Some problems have no easy answer! Admit what you do not know, and people will trust the knowledge you do have.