Getting an educationWHS graduate interns at Filipino maternity clinic
Kelsey Bishop received quite an education during her two months in the Philippines over the summer. Bishop, the daughter of Kathy and Cameron Bishop of Washington, interned at a medical clinic there, where she delivered babies.
From the beginning of June to the end of July, Bishop lived in Davao, a city of 1.5 million people. She treated pregnant women at Mercy Maternity Center by visiting the mothers in their home and caring for them at the clinic.
Bishop graduated from Washington High School in 2009 and is now a senior at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. She has spent the past three years studying nursing in college, but nothing could have prepared her for what she experienced in Southeast Asia.
Bishop said the clinic in Davao believed strongly in hands-on learning.
“You don’t need any medical background because they train you when you get there,” she said.
Before Bishop could deliver a baby, she had to observe five births, chart for three of them (take notes), then assist with five more.
“Assisting with a birth means that as soon as the baby is delivered, you put it on the mom’s stomach, dry it off, suction its nose and mouth if it needs it and clamp the cord,” she said. “You probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the U.S. as a nursing student. You would only observe. A volunteer would never get to deliver a baby.”
When the day came for Bishop to deliver her first baby, the clinic was like Grand Central Station. That night, all five of the clinic’s beds were occupied by expectant mothers.
Bishop was in charge of delivering the first baby of the night, which was born at 10:40 p.m. She and a midwife cleaned the baby, cut the umbilical and performed their routine health inspections.
Soon after Bishop had delivered her first baby, she was up to deliver again because the other students and interns had already been paired up with a mother.
“All the women there were pushing at the same time,” she said. “It was such a busy night the supervisor was not even in my room for my second birth. There was only a student there charting.”
Bishop’s second baby was born at 3:02 a.m. Four other babies were born at the clinic within an hour and a half. Bishop said she was so excited from her first delivery that she wasn’t nervous to deliver the second on her own.
“I was on a really big high because I had just delivered my first baby,” she said. “The second one went well and came natural.”
Bishop delivered nine babies in all during her internship, the last coming on her 22nd birthday, July 26.
“One of my friends made a cake for me,” she said. “They made it out of milo, which is a chocolate powder everyone drinks for nutrition.”
Once an intern delivers a baby, the intern is responsible for all of that baby’s checkups. The mother and the baby return the day after delivery for a checkup, then three days later, then seven days, two weeks, six weeks and 12 weeks. Bishop said she developed a strong bond with the families from seeing them so often. Bishop prayed with the mothers during their pre-natals and during their births.
In an effort to get the mothers to return for a checkup, the clinic takes a photo of the family each time it comes in.
“We print the photos off and give them to the family,” Bishop said. “It’s an incentive for them to keep coming. They don’t have cameras, so they probably couldn’t get these pictures anywhere else.”
The Filipino women who visited Mercy Maternity Center tended to be young, between the ages of 16 and 20. Their babies tended to weigh less than American babies, but Bishop said this was understandable given Filipino women have smaller body frames than Americans.
The clinic does not charge the women for the services it provides, only for the supplies. Bishop said the clinic charges $11 to $22 per birth, whereas in the U.S. a birth would cost thousands of dollars.
About 1,500 babies are born at the clinic every year. A large part of the clinic’s work is pre-natals. About 20,000 women come in for pre-natals in a year. The medical personnel at the clinic also do home visits, which allowed Bishop a chance to see how her patients live.
“The whole country is very poor,” she said. “Average income is between $2 to $4 a day. Even people with a college education make less than $5 a day.”
On Bishop’s first home visit, she walked up narrow, unsteady stairs to what she described as a “treehouse without a tree.”
“The floor was very slanted,” she said. “The only thing up there was a hammock for the kids. I think they did their cooking on the coals outside. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Bishop went to another home where the family lived in a basement that was so small Bishop could not stand up straight inside. Two children shared a hammock. A large rug covered the dirt floor.
“In all three homes I went to, people slept on the floor, but they all had a TV,” she said. “That’s why the culture is so confusing.”
Most Filipinos who visited the clinic spoke English, but a number of them spoke a language called Visayan. Bishop was one of five interns, who serve for a few months at a time. There were also 20 students at the clinic, who stay for two years at a time. The students study the native dialects so they can communicate with everybody who comes into the clinic.
Bishop said she is extremely grateful to her supporters in Washington who helped pay for her trip and who sent her e-mails while she was overseas. Bishop kept a blog that she updated with pictures and stories from her time in the Philippines.
For the immediate future, Bishop plans to graduate from Mount Mercy University in May and then stay in the U.S. while she pays off her college loans. She went on a trip to Malawi, Africa, in 2009 and would like to return to the country.
“I’ve always felt it was my calling to take my nursing out of the country,” she said.