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Furthering Care in China Nurses Connect with Peers

W W h a t s t a r t e d a s a c a s u a l q u e s t i o n a n d l o n g s h o t s i g n - u p o n a b u l l e t i n b o a r d b e c a m e a c o m p e l l i n g a n d s u c c e s s f u l h u m a n i t a r i - a n m i s s i o n c o n n e c t i n g E N H n e o n a t a l n u r s e s w i t h p e e r s a c r o s s t h e g l o b e . B r i n g i n g C h i n e s e N e o n a t a l N u r s i n g t o t h e 2 1 s t C e n t u r y , a t e a c h i n g e x c h a n g e , t a p p e d t h e e x p e r t i s e o f t e n I n f a n t S p e c i a l C a r e U n i t ( I S C U ) n u r s e s f r o m E v a n s t o n H o s p i t a l w h o u s e d t h e i r v a c a t i o n t i m e , e n e r g y , m o n e y a n d t a l e n t t o s h a r e t h e i r k n o w l e d g e w i t h f e l l o w n u r s e s i n S h a n g h a i a n d W e n z h o u C h i n a . T r a v e l i n g i n g r o u p s o f t w o a n d t h r e e , E N H n u r s e s e a c h s p e n t a week at Yuying Children’s Hospital (YCH) in Wenzhou and two days at Fudan University in Shanghai demonstrating hands-on care and offering a myriad of suggestions for improvements in the resource-challenged Chinese hospitals.

An eye-opening experience for nurses on both sides of the exchange, the initiative was designed to help change the nursing culture and dramatically improve patient care in China.

Neonatologist Sid Tan, MD, who is pursuing collaborative research efforts that will hopefully result in clinical trials in China, suggested the possibility of ENH nurses traveling to China following his own visits and observations of the deficiencies in patient care.

Dr. Tan’s research on perinatal brain injuries from oxygen deprivation causing conditions like cerebral palsy has led to many promising discoveries in the lab, but the legal climate surrounding malpractice issues in the United States practically prohibits clinical trials with risk involving infants.

Calling the venture a “feel good trip for everybody,” Dr. Tan is quick to praise the nurses who volunteered their generosity and their ability to impart real and valuable lessons amid culture shock and less than ideal conditions.

ISCU Clinical Coordinator Connie Herron admits her first reaction to Dr. Tan’s suggested trip to China was that it was a crazy idea, but she posted a sign to gauge volunteer interest and soon found herself spearheading fundraising and coordinating plans for four nursing “delegations” that traveled to China from March through May 2007.

Shocked by the conditions they saw, Herron said there was no lack of compassion on the part of the Chinese nurses who face a severe lack of training. “Even some of the basic things we teach new nurses they did not know,” she said.

A critical shortage of nurses means rows of babies are left in cribs with bottles propped in their mouths, as the nurses have no time to feed them. “I expected the worst and some of it fulfilled my expectations,” Herron said.

From basic hygiene to regular monitoring of babies’ conditions, the ENH nurses were able to make very specific

and detailed recommendations, some of which have already been implemented.

“The success of any neonatal unit is based on the nursing,” said Dr. Tan. The nurses are the first to notice any kind of change in a baby’s vital signs or behavior, and their quick response is the key to successful care, he explained. “Neonatal nurses are really a separate breed, they have a complete sense of responsibility, almost like being a surrogate mother,” said Dr. Tan.

“We calm our babies, we pick up our babies, we feed our babies,” Herron said. And when Herron picked up babies at the hospital in China, she said she could feel the Chinese nurses’ desire to be able to provide that kind of care.

The nurses developed fast friendships and strong bonds with their Chinese counterparts, and many of them are now in regular email communication, and discussing the possibility of future trips.

Chinese nurse YaPing Shi, who served as the primary contact person and host, said the exchange was very meaningful to nurses and hospital administration, who are now struggling to improve nursing quality. “The most important thing we got from the American nurses is that they showed us how to do and think as a nurse. In China, we haven’t enough nurses and money to support nursing jobs…We want to train our new nurses to have a professional mode of thinking.” “The most surprising thing we found is how the American nurses love their nursing jobs; they have a kind of passion for their nursing,” Shi said.

Hayley Axtmann, who was the youngest ENH nurse to make the trip, said she was struck by the fact that the nurses have no independence in caring for their patients, and would never consid- er questioning an order or suggesting something to a doctor. “They were surprised at our independence,” Axtmann said, demonstrat- ing how lessons in patient care also crossed cultural patterns. Lessons on both sides continue to unfold.

“I love my job and I never thought about how lucky we are as nurses caring for babies at a place like this, at this level of quality,” Herron said. And thanks to the connection and care of ten volunteers, there are many, many babies in China receiving better care today.

ENH Neonatal Nurses Bringing Chinese Neonatal Nursing to the 21st Century

Hayley Axtmann

Sally Feiertag

Joanna Konsur

Jolanta Borovik

Tiffany Gwartney

Remenisa Rubin

Mary Cunningham

Connie Herron

Luz Schlager

Marilyn Hochstein

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