When Jennifer Monipa signed up to visit remote villages in Western province as a trainee midwife, she was looking forward to applying her new skills and knowledge and learning as much as possible.

But she got more out of the experience than she expected.

“I helped deliver a baby girl and she was named after me!” Jennifer recalls. “We delivered the baby without any complications. It was a clean delivery.”

Jennifer, an Australia Awards scholar who recently completed study in 2020 at the University of Goroka (UOG), visited Middle Fly district in 2019 on a midwifery practicum with YWAM Medical Ships.

The visit took place under a partnership between the UOG and YWAM which offers midwifery students practical training and sees them share their skills and knowledge in rural and remote PNG.

The initiative began in 2019 when UOG midwifery coordinator, Clerah Goveh, was approached by the PNG Nursing Council about students undertaking practical placements on the YWAM ship.

“Straight away I gave positive feedback,” Clerah says. “The inspiration came from my passion to serve rural communities and [address] the high maternal mortality rate that we have.”

Since then, 14 UOG midwifery students have completed practicums with YWAM in Western, Gulf, Central and Milne Bay provinces. All have been Australia Awards scholars.

Students undertake two-week practicals on the YWAM ship, visiting rural and remote communities, and a further six weeks doing practicums at health centres in the Eastern Highlands province.

“The students conducted deliveries at home, because the sites we visit are village communities and not health facilities. They also conducted antenatal checks, family planning and immunisation,” Clerah explains.

Overall, the visiting medical teams saw more than 3,500 primary health care patients. This included work by the midwifery students and the experienced PNG and Australian medical professionals they worked alongside on the YWAM ship.

The benefits continue well after the students’ time on board.

Now a midwife at Sandaun Provincial Hospital, Jennifer Monipa (pictured left) says she is proudly applying the skills and knowledge she developed on the remote area practicum.

“The learning and experience is helping me detect early signs of complications in labour and I’m able to manage them,” she says.

Jennifer’s fellow Australia Awards scholar and YWAM practicum participant Joy Puio agrees.

“The experience was very helpful to me as a midwifery student and to the communities we visited,” Joy says of her practicum in Central and Milne Bay Provinces.  She is now working as a midwife at Wabag General Hospital.

“I learned a lot from working with other midwives and gained more confidence … I’m now in a better position to empower colleagues.”

The medical ship MV YWAM PNG has recently returned to PNG, and there are plans for more University of Goroka midwifery students to undertake practicums on board in the months ahead.