A mission of help to Haitian mothers-to-be

10/12/2007 7:00:00 AM

Melinda Hoskins, an assistant professor in the University's Orvis School of Nursing, is catching a plane Oct. 12 for Port-au-Prince to help teach women and diminish Haiti's newborn and birthing mortality rate.

She's participating in the Midwives for Haiti organization, and will be traveling alone to Hinche, a rural area of the Latin American country.

"I love midwifery, I have a great deal of concern for the experience of mothers around childbirth and its impact on the women's future parenting skills and their health," Hoskins said.

She said there weren't many opportunities for Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) in Reno to become involved with full-scope maternity care, and she, being certified, wanted to find a way to use her skills.

"I have this feeling that if I can't do midwifery here in this state, then I should be finding a way to use my skills and education somewhere in the world," Hoskins said.

In the United States, the mortality rate of women giving birth is 13 per 100,000. In Haiti, the World Organization in 2000 reported that six or seven women out of 1,000 died of birth complications.

The organization's overall goal, as mentioned on its website, is to create a birthing center in Haiti with equipment for proper vaccinations. Members hope to do this by bringing in certified nurse-midwives who can teach the Haitian women about birthing as well as assist the delivery process.

Hoskins has 35 years of experience as a registered nurse with a specialty in maternal and child health. She also became well-versed in community care opportunities through her husband's family medicine practice in Minden, Nev. The program calls for medically experienced volunteers.

Hoskins worked with the Women's Health and Birth Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., in 2004 and 2005, gaining experience in the out-of-hospital birth setting. Midwives are considered specialists in normal birth, and they are able to identify abnormal patterns in pregnancy. They can also provide emergency care for unexpected problems. It is this knowledge that she hopes to share with Haiti.

"I am also able to work with women on some of the more common women's health issues, including gynecologic issues, sexually transmitted diseases, health screening and family planning," she said.

Hoskins said she will return from Haiti with more information to teach her students, but she didn't recommend the program for the meek. There are many political issues in Haiti and the Midwives have to be knowledgeable of what to do in certain situations and remove themselves from the political process.

"Going to a place like that (Haiti) requires careful thought and precautions," Hoskins said.

As for the language barriers between American English and Creole, the Haitian native language, Hoskins hired a translator—one of the out-of-pocket costs of the program. In addition, she said she is trying to learn some simple phrases.

Other out-of-the-pocket expenses include the roundtrip airfare from Reno to Haiti, room and board, translators and souvenir purchases.

"My faculty position at UNR frees me to participate in something like this during the time that I am not teaching," she said.

Hoskins has a "B" contract with the University, which allows her the flexibility to teach specialty classes like maternity nursing content.

Overall, she budgeted about $1,500 for the first trip and is already planning to take a second trip around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

Hoskins gathered clothing to bring on the trip for the women.

"I was able to get 100 percent cotton nightgowns on sale in early September to take for mothers who have a baby that dies," she said. "I am allowed 100 pounds of baggage on the flight to Haiti."

Although her purpose for traveling is medical, she said Haiti also needs expertise in other fields to help its citizens.

"Certainly engineers who could help with designing and constructing health-promoting infrastructure such as sewer systems that function in the particular landscape...may have something to offer," she said.


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