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February 2023

ADRILLI ANNA ROBERT, Midwife in Lankien, South Sudan

Anna Robert is a midwife in the maternity ward of a hospital in Lankien, South Sudan. She has been working for MSF since 2021, and she has participated in the Nursing and Midwifery initiative of the MSF Academy for Healthcare, which aims to strengthen the skills and competencies of the staff providing nursing and midwifery care in MSF-supported hospitals.

Anna decided she wanted to be a nurse when she was a kid. “My auntie was a nurse, and I saw her getting dressed every morning going to work. That made me have the courage of becoming like her, a nurse.” She is only the second person to have healthcare training in her village. “They were always bringing help to us from other places, but they were facing challenges with the translation, so that also encouraged me to become a nurse, to help my people.”

My auntie was a nurse and she inspired me to become one. I also wanted to help the people in my village in their language

She got a governmental scholarship to go to Maridi School of Nursing and Midwifery, where she ended up taking midwifery courses because there were no places left to study nursing. Then she worked with different health centers and NGOs before getting a job with MSF.

With the MSF Academy, Anna has had the possibility to improve her knowledge and competencies going through the Basic Clinical Nursing Care learning programme as a participant. “I really enjoyed this training, the unit that was the most interesting for me was the one on nutrition and therapeutic feeding. Now I’m able to identify the nutritional status of the child.”

She then became a learning companion, which means that she provides individual bedside mentoring to other learners. For this, she had specialised training by the MSF Academy. Clinical mentoring being one of the cornerstones of the MSF Academy’s pedagogical approach, the learning companions allow for individual bedside mentoring for all participants, through a cascade system whereby the clinical mentors train learning companions who, in turn, become tutors for their peers.

“The nurse aides here don’t go to school, so they may be lacking some knowledge. I wanted to become a learning companion to transfer the little knowledge that I have from college to my colleagues. I am able to translate everything for them and they understand it better than from the class.” Anna also saw this as an opportunity to develop “skills to manage people and be a leader.”

I would recommend MSF to continue with the Academy, it has really improved the staff’s work, patient care becomes a simpler thing

Anna acknowledges that some of the skills acquired in this programme and the practices taught have never before been explained to the participants, they might have forgotten them or not be performing them in the best way possible. “There are aspects that we should not take for granted, like personal hygiene or infection prevention precautions, so must really emphasize that strictly because we don’t want patients to get a cross infection.” She has experienced challenges being a learning companion tutoring colleagues with more years of experience, “so sometimes you have to insist for the person to repeat the practice when you saw that something went wrong.”

At Anna’s hospital, line managers and supervisors have been helpful to balance participants’ workload and training hours. “You can go to your classes, and people will cover for you.”

“I would recommend MSF to continue with the Academy, it has really improved the staff’s work, they really do the right things in the ward now and patient care becomes a simpler thing.”

Anna at work being observed by her mentor

As a midwife in South Sudan, Anna says she feels happy to assist other women. “Most of our female patients don’t feel like being exposed to male staff, so I really feel happy to help them. But we also keep educating them telling them that these fellow men are doing the same work and will not do anything bad to harm them or their babies.”

Anna has seen the difficulties that female colleagues have experienced while working and participating in the learning programme, especially if they had children. “One of my mentees was a lactating mother, and she was working in the morning hours, and in her free time she had to maybe do some assignments, so she felt she couldn’t spend enough time with her baby.”

Even with all the personal challenges, Anna has seen that the colleagues have really showed interest to participate in the training programme. “The little time they have, they squeeze it and do something out of it, because they are interested in the work and they are showing up for the mentorships.”

The MSF Academy Nursing and Midwifery Care programme is currently being implemented in five countries and counts with more than 700 active learners. The programme is delivered in the work environment, while participants carry on with their nursing and midwifery duties simultaneously.

Anna graduated from the Basic Clinical Nursing Care in March 2023