Regular readers of the Forum will be aware we are following the progression of developments of a new undergraduate midwifery programme in UAE. In this third article (see the first here second here ), Dr Maeve O’Connell, Midwife, Assistant Professor of midwifery, shares the next part of the journey.
Keep the faith and believe in the transformational power of midwifery : #MidwiferyinAbuDhabi is coming
Time has flashed by since the last blog post on 24th March and so much has happened here in the UAE.
On Friday 13th May, His Highness, the President of the UAE, Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan sadly died. The country is now in 40 days official mourning. The new President Shaikh Mohamad Bin Zayed Al Nayhan has been elected and becomes the third president of the UAE. We extend our sincere condolences to the UAE government, the esteemed Al Nayhan family, and the people of the UAE on the passing of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa, may he rest in peace.
The National Strategy for Nursing and Midwifery -2025 in the UAE highlighted the need to raise the quality of nursing and midwifery in the country. Furthermore, the first National Strategy for Maternity and Childhood, launched by our patron at Fatima College of Health Sciences, Her Highness Shaikha Fatima bint Mubarak in 2017, prioritized the rights of children and mothers to get comprehensive healthcare. Thus, midwifery is a key component of this. Our aim is to commence a Bachelors in Midwifery degree programme, raise the profile of midwifery as a profession, as well as increase the available midwifery workforce. This is vital to the UAEs mission to ensure the well-being of mothers and infants in the Emirates. We are hoping to have our first intake of approximately thirty midwifery students in August 2022 if all goes well. The first batch of midwives would then potentially graduate in 2026.
Throughout Ramadan and Eid, Dr Gina and I have continued to work hard to progress our new midwifery curriculum and accreditation process for Fatima College of Health Sciences here in Abu Dhabi. I don’t know about blood and tears, but there certainly has been sweat involved in this process! There are two of us working on this curriculum and as we move into summer, the temperature keeps on rising. Much like other developed countries, COVID rates seem to have improved here and some restrictions have eased, but we are still wearing masks indoors. Both of us are working as lecturers for the Bachelors of Nursing programme at the same time and work on other courses with responsibilities such as lectures, exams and clinical placement, in addition to working on midwifery curriculum development. At times, our volume of work feels overwhelming, and we both have faced moments of tiredness and where doubts creep in, but we feel so lucky to have this amazing team- we always have each other. Somehow, it works out that when one of us has doubts, the other raises our spirits and belief. Self-care has been an important part of this. Sometimes, while it might feel contrary to what you need to do, even when the to-do list is long, you need to take breaks to replenish your energy and gusto. You cannot pour from an empty cup – that is for sure. We treated ourselves to a local traditional iftar and we also visited a salon for much deserved facials! This helped us to get the boost we needed to advance the work. We could talk about our issues in a more informal setting which also allowed for creative energy. We are so proud of what we have accomplished in the last six months or so. When we put our heads together, we achieve great things. So, let’s go ahead and tell you more about what we have been doing through this blog.
The accreditation review team identified 61 points which we had to address. This was a rigorous process of systematically working our way through each comment and suggestion as a team and ensuring they were addressed. Our Head of School Dr Alexander Gleason has been extremely supportive and has utter belief in us as a team. Our ‘Head of Institutional Effectiveness’ Dr Amro Widaa was key to supporting us in the operational and strategic details in particular. As with any project, this process took longer than we expected. Our response has finally been submitted so now we are awaiting accreditation!
On the 19th April we held an Information session for student nurses as a launch within Fatima College at our Abu Dhabi campus. Since midwifery is not well understood here in Abu Dhabi, these sessions are essential to give students the opportunity to learn more about the profession and allow them to ask us questions. Innovative methods were used to ‘deliver’ the session, pardon the pun! Dr Gina gave birth to baby Maeve, named after her midwife who so calmly supported her to give birth at the end of the session and the paramedic student team worked to transfer her to hospital at the end! The feedback from students has been very encouraging and they loved our acting skills!
We want our future midwives to have a positive clinical placement experience in well supported environments with opportunities to work in the full scope of midwifery practice. Therefore, we have been conducting education audits in various hospitals to better understand who works there and what services are available. This will help us to facilitate their learning experiences. Ensuring they experience normal low risk midwifery led care is a vital component of this in line with the ICM Competencies which guided our curriculum. We are so grateful to our key stakeholders for their warm welcome and enthusiastic support in anticipation of this new degree programme. Mentorship is a professional duty and expected requirement of midwives and those we have met in the clinical areas have shown commitment to sharing the learning. It has been fantastic to see the services available to women at the various hospital tours. Currently all maternity care takes place in hospitals, but we hope that there will be potential to extend some midwifery services into the community.
We plan to repeat our information session about the new programme across the other campuses in Ajman, Al Ain and Al Dhafra so that all eligible students may consider joining us. The programme will only run in Abu Dhabi campus to begin with.
We have a strong relationship with the Paramedic Education team here and plan workshops in collaboration with them to strengthen collaborative relationships with our students. We will have a Maternity Simulation morning at the end of May supported by ‘Leader Healthcare’ who supply our mannequins and simulation equipment.
Finally, we celebrated the 5th May International Day of the Midwife together along with more than 200 midwives worldwide at the virtual ICM party! Being a part of this amazing event helped us to feel in touch with the global community of midwifery. Midwifery education faces similar challenges worldwide. Globally, many countries are scaling up midwifery but face various barriers. It was inspiring to hear positive midwifery stories from midwives in India, Pakistan, Nigeria amongst other places. We were so inspired we decided to try doing an Instagram Live recording for the first time where we chatted to each other about our midwifery careers!
I will conclude this month’s blog with the following quote:
‘One of the most powerful forces in human nature is our belief that change is possible’ -Shawn Achor
We must hold the vision of our Midwifery Programme and future midwives clear in our minds and believe in the transformational power of midwifery. We know the evidence supporting the powerful impact of introducing more midwives in a healthcare system. Better outcomes, better choices and better satisfaction with maternity care. Let’s stay positive and hopeful for our future. The UAE is counting on us.
Renfrew, M (2021) Scaling up care by midwives must now be a global priority. Lancet. Jan, Vol 9: e2-e3 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30478-2/fulltext
Dr Maeve O’Connell