By Jess Clarke
As a teenager growing up in central Uganda, Brenda Shattuck ’18 assisted with her mother’s midwifery duties in their village.
The babies usually were born at her family’s house in Nkuke. Shattuck, who is currently studying at Norwich for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, prepared the women’s rooms and helped them bathe.
Sometimes she walked with the expectant mothers. “I would run back and tell my mom if they were in labor,” recalls Shattuck, now a sophomore in Norwich University’s School of Nursing.
Her desire to be a nurse started in Nkuke, and that’s where she’ll take her Norwich education after she graduates.
Back home, basic hygiene practices such as washing hands or using gloves when delivering health care aren’t always observed.
“It’s lacking. My goal is to go back and try to educate people about some of those things that are vital in nursing,” Shattuck says. “I want to work with my mom and other midwives to…share my education with them.”
Shattuck attended Green Mountain College in Vermont on a full scholarship and graduated in 2012 with degrees in biology and psychology. She matriculated at Norwich this fall partly because of the personalized assistance she received with the admissions process.
She also was impressed with Norwich’s Academic Achievement Center, which offers individualized and group tutoring and coaching by professional staff and peers.
“That was a big relief to me, knowing that when I need help using English as a second language, I’m going to have someone to help me,” Shattuck says.
She appreciates the one-on-one support from faculty that is a Norwich hallmark.
“Sometimes you go to school, and you feel you are there by yourself,” she says. “But here, when I need help, I can go to my professors’ offices. I meet with them a lot when I have questions.”
This semester, Shattuck introduced herself at a meeting of the Norwich University Board of Fellows, an advisory body.
“They were very impressed with her and her story in terms of her strong science background, passion for nursing, and desire to return home and bring new knowledge home,” says Ann Marchewka, interim program director of the School of Nursing.
Shattuck plans to increase communication between midwives in her village and medical professionals at the local hospital. That’s not an easy task in a region where motor vehicles are uncommon.
During summers, Shattuck lives in Uganda to help her mother with midwifery and volunteer at a hospital, assisting expectant mothers who are HIV-positive. She encourages those mothers to have their baby in the hospital, so nurses can help. Most people in her village can’t afford the hospital and use a midwife instead.
That kind of service to others is a founding principle of Norwich and is encouraged in students.
With Marchewka, Shattuck is exploring opportunities for an internship or exchange in which Norwich University nursing students could visit Uganda to learn about medical care there. Likewise, Ugandan students could visit Norwich, nearby hospitals, or other health care facilities.
Whether it’s through an exchange, internship, or a less formal structure, Shattuck knows that, anywhere in the world, education is key to improving the practice of heath care—including midwifery.
“The midwives don’t have a lot of education. Maybe their mother did it, and they watched,” Shattuck says. “Seeing all the work my mother does without education for expectant mothers, I thought she could do a lot more if she had education. I can be a big asset to the people there.”