NICU Nurses Teach in Dominican Republic

Team performed PICC placements on infants including this one.

Infant with PICC in Isolette.

By Rebecca Sorrels, RN

When Dr. Raphael Mena finished his neonatal fellowship at University of Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center (UCMC) in June, 2011, he asked me if I would travel to his hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to teach his Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses how to place PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) lines once he was settled. I had helped Mena during his last year at UCMC with neonatal PICC’s and instructed him in the placement procedure. I have been placing PICC’s in the NICU at UCMC for 20 years and teaching our PICC team nurses for 10 years. Mena was very encouraged by the experience once he could place them on his own.

I was flattered by his invitation to travel to Santo Domingo and told him I would love to but didn’t actually expect to hear from him again. Much to my surprise, my phone rang in early May and it was Mena. He said, “You probably thought I forgot, but I’m ready for you to come to the Dominican.” I was excited, yet nervous, but after getting a passport, purchasing kits, catheters and other equipment, and finding another PICC nurse on our team to accompany me (Tonya Barrons), we were on our way in late July.

UCMC NICU Nurses pose with medical team in Santo Domingo.

Tonya Barrons, RN (far- left) and Rebecca Sorrels, RN (middle-bottom) with medical team
in Santo Domingo, DR.

Tonya Barrons and I spent a week in Santo Domingo at the government-funded hospital where Mena works. The hospital delivers 7,000 babies a year and has three NICU rooms with approximately 50 – 75 babies total. We spent our time there lecturing to nurses and doctors, demonstrating placement and assisting three nurses and two doctors with actual PICC placements. Three out of five placements were successful within only three hospital days, which was unusually good given that we had only one day of classroom time and one day of observation. Our “students” were excited and appreciative.

It was quite a learning experience for me and Tonya as well. Besides not speaking much Spanish (we had an interpreter), we knew little about the Dominican Republic culture, which turned out to be very loving, caring, and appreciative. However, the hospital’s equipment was sparse (we used the cuff of a sterile glove for our tourniquet).

Rebecca Sorrels, RN teaches staff in Dominican Republic PICC line placement.

Rebecca Sorrels, RN teaches staff in Dominican Republic PICC line placement.

The warmers and isolettes had no heat, we read our x-rays by heat lamp, and bundled babies with torn up old sheets. The climate was really hot. In fact, we had never sweated so much in our lives or used so much hand sanitizer due to the lack of running water. This gave us a new appreciation for our homes and UCMC’s NICU.

Our experience was scary, unpredictable, amazing, beautiful and heartwarming. Would we go again? In a “Neonatal heartbeat”!!

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