Hadija Mwanaupanga shares her experience of being a Leading Safe Choices Mentor in postpartum family planning at Mwananyamala Hospital, Tanzania.
I’m a Leading Safe Choices mentor at the Mwanayamala Hospital and Makurumla Health Centre.
The role of a mentor is to assist health care professionals who have strengthened their skills through training to become competent in providing quality postpartum family planning services, in order to reduce maternal and child mortality.
To me a typical day mentoring is fantastic. In Tanzania we were not used to training a person and then to straight away take that person to the health facility to start providing services with him or her assisting, to make them gain confidence. We were used to training service providers and then leaving them for at least 2 to 3 months before follow up. When following up after this time, you can find that some have lost some of their skills. What I like about Leading Safe Choices is that after training you start guiding and mentoring a person instantly, it’s fantastic.
The Leading Safe Choices programme has made a lot of success in my facility. To start with, there are better interpersonal relationships among staff; between mentors and staff, mentors and health authorities within facilities, with the heath management team, and with regional and district teams. Another success is that we’ve increased the number of trained service providers and they are gaining skills and competence through close mentorship. We also have monthly meetings where we discuss and evaluate services, comparing previous and available data. Service providers are becoming very engaged with the data, we analyse it together and share resolutions for improving services, which motivates them. This was not done before the Leading Safe Choices mentors started.
Postpartum family planning is important for the community because it helps to capture those missed opportunities after delivery, when some women do not come back for family planning. We counsel during the antenatal period when they come for delivery, when they are waiting to deliver, after delivery, and postnatal.
The main challenge in promoting postpartum family planning is that there are very few trained heath care providers. Sometimes trained providers are not available due to unscheduled activities; the person might be available today, but tomorrow they could be allocated to another activity because of shortages of staff. This can make it difficult to mentor. Another challenge are rumours and misconceptions about contraception, because this method is new in Tanzania. You have to go the extra mile in counselling and make sure that soon after delivery, once the client has made a choice, you provide the service.
Despite these challenges, we have increased the number of clients going home with family planning from 8% to 17% in three months.