Nurses Spearhead Effort to Educate Russian Caregivers

After attending a Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) class held at Hillcrest Hospital, Vladimir Burdjalov, MD, a member of the hospital’s neonatology department, approached the instructor, Tina DiFiore, CNP, a clinical nurse specialist in the neonatal ICU. He shared how lucky the hospital was to have the class and simulation mannequins on which to practice. He added that in his home country of Russia, many infants die because healthcare professionals do not know neonatal resuscitation techniques.

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“As I walked across the street to the hospital from the training lab, I thought, ‘This is awful!’” remembers DiFiore. “Then I wondered if there was something we could do. Cleveland Clinic’s vision is to be the global leader in nursing practice.” DiFiore sought out the help of Sue Dreck, RN, who coordinates the NRP class as well as the S.T.A.B.L.E. program focused on early transitional care of ill infants. They searched the internet and discovered there aren’t many countries that offer programs similar to the NRP, which is jointly sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.

The two nurses approached Dr. Burdjalov, asking how they could help healthcare providers in Russia learn about neonatal resuscitation. He contacted a local service organization, which told him about an area in Siberia with no newborn specialists. DiFiore and Dreck began collecting and sending old nursing and physician textbooks and new NRP textbooks to the Siberian hospital. Then they took it a step further: The nurses secured funds to invite two Russian doctors to Cleveland last fall to participate in NRP classes and learn other techniques for caring for sick newborns, such as using a ventilator. One of the physicians visited Cleveland Clinic, while the other trained at MetroHealth as part of a joint fellowship program with that Cleveland-based hospital.

The physician who visited Hillcrest Hospital now serves as an NRP instructor at his own hospital, where he has trained two nurses and another family practice physician. In addition, he went home with a simulation mannequin donated by Dreck and a ventilator provided by MedWish International. Earlier this year, a nurse and physician from Hillcrest’s pediatric respiratory therapy department traveled to Siberia to teach caregivers there simple techniques, such as how to take the temperature of a newborn.

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DiFiore is gratified to know that she and her peers are helping healthcare providers and babies around the world. “When I started nursing 25 years ago it was all about our little hospital,” she says. “Then we became part of a health system [Cleveland Clinic] that is growing larger and larger. We are a global society: We have to spread knowledge.”