Now in its sixth year, the Sistah Care Health Career Program, located at midwife Shafia Monroe's International Center for Traditional Childbearing in North Portland, continues to encourage young African American women to learn more about health careers.
Each year, the Sistah Care program accepts more than a dozen young Black women, ages 14 to 21, who are in high school or going through a GED program.
The young women meet for more than two hours every Tuesday for a year to learn about such things as personal health; nutrition; reproductive health; the signs and symptoms of pregnancy; medical terminology; clinical skills; newborn care; and career options for in the field of women's health. The students also learn how to provide prenatal support, be a labor coach and provide childbirth education.
Shafia Monroe has been a midwife for more than 30 years and started Sistah Care in 2001 after mentoring a young girl at a local high school who hoped to become a midwife. When eight other girls showed up to the mentoring sessions, Monroe realized there was an unmet need in her community.
Monroe says that, even if the Sistah Care students don't go into a health care field – and many of them do – they carry the lessons learned through Sistah Care out into the community with them, telling pregnant friends how to give their babies a good head start on life.
"Sistah Care graduates exit the program confident, able to share the historical contribution of African Americans to health care in America, understanding the requirements for nursing and midwifery (careers) and understanding the different educational tracks of becoming a midwife," writes Monroe in a recent issue of her ICTC newsletter.
They say they now feel comfortable telling their friends that it is good to breastfeed their babies and they don't think it is 'nasty' anymore. They're surprised to learn that a woman can produce breast milk as long as there is a demand and that a nutritious diet can prevent certain diseases."
Sistah Care is not the only career-oriented program offered at the International Center for Traditional Childbearing. Women hoping to become a doula – a non-medical assistant who helps women during prenatal months, labor and delivery and/or during the postpartum period – also can get the training they need at the North Portland center.
The center's Full Circle Doula/Birth Companion program is an intensive, three-and-a-half day training, which teaches women how to support women during pregnancy, during labor and birth and after the baby is born; how to help establish breastfeeding; how to market their doula business; and how to increase employability.
For more information about the Sistah Care or the Full Circle Doula/Birth Companion programs, call the ICTC at 503-460-9324, or email ICTC@blackmidwives.org.