Even though she had previously observed healthcare in a developing country, Illinois
Wesleyan University nursing alumna Hannah Smith ’14 (Monticello, Ill.) was startled to see patients’ vital signs
documented on a scrap of paper during an internship in Tanzania.
Smith spent three weeks this summer as a midwifery intern at Mount Meru Regional Hospital
in Arusha, a city of 1.2 million people in Tanzania, through Work the World. The organization
provides healthcare students with hospital placements in Africa, Asia and South America.
Smith’s interest in international healthcare began in 2010 when she helped with earthquake
relief on a medical mission trip to Haiti. Two years later she worked in a hospital
in Barcelona while studying abroad through the IWU Spain Program. After graduating, Smith wanted to continue her observations of international healthcare
Because Smith had already passed the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination)
for registered nurses, she was able to work as an RN in Tanzania. Smith’s job duties
included checking dilation, checking the position of the fetus and using a Pinard
horn stethoscope to listen for fetal heart rates. Witnessing over 40 births over the
course of her internship, Smith performed eight deliveries independently and worked
as the nurse in three cesarean sections.
“What I liked most about my internship placement were the experiences that I would
not likely see in the United States,” said Smith. These experiences included observing
an infant whose mother had contracted rubella while pregnant, and helping a midwife
during a vaginal breech surgery. Working with unique medical situations gave her more
confidence in her abilities as a nurse and a new perspective on healthcare around
“Being immersed in a culture where fetal heart tones are taken only every four to
six hours on a woman in labor and documentation is done on a scrap of paper helped
me grow to appreciate the charting and standards that we have in the United States,”
Her current plans include obtaining a position on a labor or delivery unit in the
U.S., and eventually earning a doctorate in nurse midwifery and women’s health. Smith
said she also hopes to work abroad again in the future.