Serving the region and beyond. Way beyond.
Halfway across the world, nurses from Children’s Hospital helped with the first baby ever to be put on a ventilator at Patan Hospital. The hospital is in Nepal, the 12th poorest nation on earth. Before installing these ventilators, babies who could not breathe on their own died because there was no way to assist them.
The moment marked the culmination of a nearly three-year “Friends of Patan Hospital NICU/PICU” project. A developing country of nearly 30 million, Nepal struggles with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, nearly 10 times higher than the U.S.
Dr. Nadarasa Visveshwara (Dr. Vish), program director of newborn medicine at Children’s, took a leadership role early in the project and got Children’s medical staff involved. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse Leslie Williams and Jennifer Norgaard, RNC-NIC, MSN, led a Children’s team that worked with international volunteers including physicians and critical care nurses in developing training curriculum focusing on critically ill newborn care, protocols and securing donations for equipment and supplies. The local Central California Association of Neonatal Nurses donated funds to buy textbooks and the NICU staff donated baby clothes.
During the summer of 2009, the team of Children’s volunteers traveled more than 6,788 miles to help set up the first neonatal and pediatric intensive care units in Nepal.
“They didn’t have any kind of intensive care and very little prenatal care, so anything you can do to get these mothers and babies care will help survival rates,” said Norgaard.
The trio spent nearly a month training the staff in neonatal care and providing ongoing clinical support for the opening of the units. Beth Case, a retired Children’s respiratory care practitioner and clinical educator, was highly utilized for her respiratory expertise. They encouraged them to focus more on patient care, hand hygiene and infection control – staples of patient safety at Children’s.
“It was really a wonderful experience to learn about the type of nursing they have there, and to make a difference by changing their practice and helping their babies,” said Williams.
The six-bed pediatric and six-bed neonatal units have been full since opening last summer. Williams and Norgaard realize this is the beginning of a new era in medical care in Nepal, and that it will need ongoing support to thrive. They plan to return to Patan Hospital in November.
“We have made a commitment to ensure that these units succeed and survive,” said Norgaard. “There might be smaller babies we can save.”