Midwifery

A few years ago, I met Wang Linyun, a nurse/midwife from Taiyuan Maternity Hospital in Shanxi, China. The photo below is a screenshot from an interview—she is expressing the utter desperation and helplessness she felt when she did not know how to help a baby experiencing childbirth complications. If a baby died or suffered a long-term disability, she blamed herself!But one may ask, how could a nurse/midwife in a maternity ward not know what to do? To answer that, let’s look at Wang Linyun’s pathway to becoming a midwife. Like many nurses/midwives in China and elsewhere, Wang completed her 3-year general nursing education, which included few midwifery specific courses. After attending 20 supervised births at a local hospital where she was expected to “learn on the job,” she was licensed to work as an obstetric nurse (Chinese title for midwife). In short, Wang became a midwife with little midwifery education or training.
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Frontline health workers, including nurses, midwives and community health workers (CHWs), are vital for effective, strong primary healthcare systems that deliver for everyone, everywhere. These cadres of health workers are the first, and in some cases often the only, point of contact with the health system for millions of people. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, nurses stepped up to lead not only at testing sites but in critical care of very ill patients, and community health workers played key roles in contact tracing and testing in many countries around the world.
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At the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation, we believe that sustainable improvements in the delivery of and access to quality primary care require a long-term commitment to enabling and supporting the well-being of the deliverer of care—the frontline health worker.
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To say that 2020 has been a challenging year would be the understatement of the century. So much has changed for the world community since COVID-19, and countless governments, non-governmental organizations and companies are bringing their unique capabilities and resources to bear in profound ways.
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By WHO estimates we need 18 million more frontline health workers (FLHWs) by 2030 to achieve SDG targets and other global health aspirations. An article authored by the Center for Health Worker Innovation's Joanne Peter, published on the ICTworks™ website, discusses how task shifting to virtual services is an opportunity for health systems to do more with the FLHWs they currently have.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the impact of overburdened health systems pushed to the limit and the heart of those systems – our health and other essential workers – rise to the occasion with remarkable expertise and determination despite enormous risks. But that determination clearly comes at a cost and begs the question: How can we better care for those who are caring for us?
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With more than 5.1 billion unique mobile subscribers on the planet, access to a mobile phone now outstrips access to essential health services. Digital technologies—and mobile phones in particular—have potential to dramatically alter how healthcare is delivered and received.
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