Two health and social care students aiming to pursue a career as midwives in the island spent an eye-opening three weeks gaining experience in one of Thailand’s busiest hospitals.
Pippa Hempsall, of Ballasalla, and Beth Vickers, of Foxdale, both 18, completed a medical placement through Gap Medics.
They spent time on the delivery suite, followed by the postnatal and neonatal wards, and then their last week was in the antenatal ward.
For Beth, the highlight of the trip was being given the opportunity to view the births that took place.
‘No words can explain the feeling you have when you see a birth, and knowing that we were there to witness that moment is absolutely indescribable,’ she said.
She said they had gained so much from their time in Chiang Mai that it was almost too much to put into words.
‘The cultural differences we were able to identify from the hospitals have meant we can compare their ways to what we have experienced in the Isle of Man.
‘It confirmed our passion and desire to become midwives, and this will only continue to push us to work hard on our current college course, and throughout university.’
Pippa said that, initially, the sheer size of the hospital was a shock – they were based on the 14th floor.
‘Spending time in both the public and private wards of the hospital allowed opportunity to witness the remarkable contrast in care, sanitation and facility,’ she said.
‘Public wards and clinics were overflowing with patients, forcing the majority to sit or sleep on the floor whilst waiting to be seen by the few doctors, nurses or midwives.
‘Basic sanitation infrastructure such as bathrooms were sparse, rarely cleaned and without hand washing facilities.
‘Risk of infection within the hospital was therefore rife.
‘I had not prepared myself for some of the scenes we were met with.’
At the hospital, 95 per cent of deliveries were via Caesarean section.
During their time on the delivery suite, there was only one natural birth.
Pippa said: ‘This was surprising, as midwifery in the UK is very much focused on the promotion of normality.’
Another key difference was the exclusion of the male partner involvement during birth – a female-only environment is seen as delivery room etiquette.
‘One of the most heart-warming moments of my time at the hospital was bringing the babies out to the anxious fathers and their families in the waiting room,’ Pippa said.
On the postnatal and neonatal wards, they were able to continue basic care and carry out hourly observations for newborns while the mothers rested, observe postnatal assessments of the women and breastfeeding support.
Pippa said: ‘We came face to face with some of the diseases that thwart Thai communities and are rife amongst pregnant women in Thailand.
‘Though their suffering was clear, the imminent arrival of their babies brought hope, and to share their joy was a huge privilege.’
Beth said that one of the main differences they noticed with the way midwives work in Thailand, compared with at home is the lessened responsibility.
‘In Thailand, obstetricians are the primary carers of pregnant, birthing and postnatal women,’ Beth said.
‘In contrast, midwives in the UK are seen as the primary carers.
‘For example, antenatal appointments are led by doctors, rather than midwives.’
Another difference was the immediate separation of newborns from their mothers straight after birth, including healthy babies.
They would spend between four to 24 hours in the nursery.
Beth said: ‘In the UK, skin-to-skin contact after birth is encouraged by midwives.’
This month, they start their second and final year of a Health and Social Care Level 3 Extended Diploma at Isle of Man College.
They will apply for a three-year midwifery degree this year.