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Health Center Today, September 28, 2009

NICU Nurses Volunteer Their Time and Expertise to NICU Nurses in India

Four registered nurses from the Health Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit spent two weeks this summer volunteering their time and expertise at the NICE (Neonatal Intensive Care and Emergencies) Institute for the Newborn in Hyderabad, India.

Kathryn Miller, Kathryn Ireland, Renee Addy, and Marianne Neptin paid their own travel costs to teach their Indian counterparts how to better care for their tiny patients.

NICU Nurse Kathryn Miller shares photos from their trip and discusses their “amazing adventure.”

Photo Gallery
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By Kathryn Miller

Dr. Naveed Hussain, neonatologist at the Health Center, had asked if any experienced nurses in the NICU were interested in traveling to India to teach at the Second Annual International Workshop in Neonatology. This conference was in Hyderabad, where he is originally from. We are so grateful to Dr. Hussain for giving us this opportunity and to Gwyn Muscillo, our nurse manager, who allowed us to quickly change our schedules to accommodate this outreach experience.

While in India we stayed at the NICE Institute for the Newborn. NICE is the first of its kind, state of the art, and largest institution in Southeast Asia, exclusively for neonatal care, education and research. This philanthropic organization is working to make Hyderabad the safest place for the newborn. It has been caring for infants for less than a year. They provide neonatal transport services from the area hospitals.

One of their objectives is to provide the highest level of care. They are also committed to providing care to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of ability to pay. Other objectives of this organization are to train future caregivers and to improve understanding of disease through research. More information can be found at its website:

According to NICE, India's infant mortality rate currently stands at 57 per 1000 live births. This is an alarming figure compared to 7 in the U.S. and 4.5 in Japan. While India delivers the highest number of babies in the world, they have one of the weakest maternal and neonatal care infrastructures.

There are less than 200 NICU's in India. Thousands of newborns die every month in India, because their families cannot afford to provide them medical care. Few families have health insurance, and those who do, do not have maternity or neonatal care coverage.

In Hyderabad, two newborns die every hour for lack of adequate neonatal care. Many live with permanent preventable disabilities.

While there are many differences when compared to our own NICU, the primary one was the medical implications if a family could not afford to pay for care. Another difference was the many hours the nursing staff at NICE needed to spend sterilizing equipment while we have disposable items readily available.

Our teaching during our outreach focused on: care of the ventilated infant; developmentally supportive care of the preterm and ill infant; care of central intravenous lines; response and recording of apnea and bradycardia events; initial steps in resuscitation; and the basic all-important aspects of hand washing, hand washing, hand washing!

Because all of the nurses at the NICE Institute could not attend the conference, we worked with nurses on all shifts to share the conference information and to answer any questions they had. They were exceptional women, doing a phenomenal job, under difficult work conditions. For us, it was an amazing, life-changing adventure that we will always remember.