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NICU Team Providing Education and Training in Honduras

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

When you begin a new venture, you are never quite sure what it will look like, or how things will unfold. The key to making the most of each experience is to go in positive and remember to be flexible. This is especially true when your venture takes you into someone else's space.

Our NICU team (neonatal intensive care unit) went into our first day of experiential learning/teaching with a positive attitude and the flexibility needed to respond to what the day brought us.

Today was spent with the NICU staff at Hospital Leonardo Martinez Valenzuela. HLMV has a brand new NICU, just opened this summer. They have intensive care area (the more critical babies are here), and intermediate care area (babies needing less monitoring, but may still need oxygen or medication support), and minimal care area (babies who are ready to go home soon). The sad thing for us to see was that there is not enough nursing staff to adequately cover all three areas. Two nurses will care for up to 22 minimal care babies, and two to three will cover the intensive care area with up to 4 babies each. There is one charge nurse, the only RN on the shift. Their intermediate care area was not open due to lack of staffing.

Our team (Marc Hengartner, physical therapist, Sue Berres, occupational therapist, Joe Cram, respiratory therapist and Samira Lopez, psychiatric nurse/parent educator) spent time touring the unit, listening to descriptions of normal routines, and encouraging the staff to share challenges and frustrations. When you come into someone else's house you honor and respect the normal routine and efforts being made. Once they gathered information, our team went to work.

During yesterday's workshop, the nurses were taught about correct ways to position babies to promote correct growth and development, the importance of low lighting, decreased noise and pain control. Other topics included feeding methods, basic respiratory therapy and how to support parents at a crisis time in their lives. As we entered the unit, the nurses began turning down lights and lowering the volume of their voices. It challenged us to remember to speak softly also. Practice what you preach.

The team spent time with each nurse, reviewing and practicing what was presented during the workshop. Joe got to spend time teaching about CPAP and other methods of respiratory support. There was even a new admission who needed CPAP started and the nurses jumped right in to practice what they had learned. Samira spent time with mothers, encouraging them and being an example of positive interaction. Marc and Susan demonstrated proper positioning and methods of calming the baby.

These nurses are so excited about improving the care that they provide for their patients, so that the difficulties of being premature or ill at the beginning of life are minimized. Yes, the challenges they face in providing this care are huge. Lack of supplies, lack of desire for change in the hospital hierarchy, and an overwhelming patient to nurse ratio on a regular basis. We are hopeful that with the ongoing support and education provided by Friends of Barnabas, we can make these changes happen. Our ultimate goal is babies who have the best start in life that they can have.

We will be at HLMV again tomorrow, continuing to encourage and teach. We pray for God's healing hand on these tiny ones, their parents and the nurses who care for them all.

~Patti Wagner

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