Nurses and midwives make up more than 50 per cent of MSF’s medical staff, and in many settings are the sole providers of medical care. This can be due to remote locations, a lack of doctors, or how the health system is set up in a particular country.
“There might not be a doctor, but there will always be a nurse or midwife in a project,” says Latina. “Sometimes a midwife is in the middle of nowhere, alone; she’s the only one who can be with women providing quality care for the baby and the mother.”
Even if they’re not the only health workers, their frontline role means they’re often providing the initial consultation, whatever the healthcare need.
Nurses often perform triage, using their assessment skills to be first to identify when patients are in need of urgent care. Nurses are also responsible for recognising the subtle signs if a patient is deteriorating, and initiating a prompt response.
It’s nurses who are the first port of call, night and day.
Midwives respond to emergency situations
MSF responds to emergency situations around the world by sending specialised teams—teams that often include midwives. Pregnant women are at higher risk of pregnancy complications during emergencies, so having midwives available in emergency response teams helps MSF to provide safe care for women and their newborns in these dangerous contexts.
An epidemic or seasonal peak in an infectious disease can also place higher demands on midwives and their care, due to pregnant women presenting at health centres with illnesses or diseases that require additional treatment or infection prevention measures.
“Sometimes MSF midwives treat pregnant women who also have Ebola or malaria or other complex obstetric history,” says Latina. “But this is when teamwork is so valuable and so rewarding, working together with doctors and nurses to provide the best care to women in these complicated situations.”