Friday, August 23, 2013

Teaching in turmoil


LIFESAVING LESSON: An Iraqi medical team learns new resuscitation techniques for newborn care.

The health care system in Iraq, previously among the best in the Middle East, has been severely weakened over the last couple of decades because of spending cuts under the former Saddam Hussein regime. These cutbacks have particularly devastated the southern region, which now has some of the worst health conditions in the country.

One group working to improve these conditions is the International Children’s Heart Foundation (ICHF), which performs heart-saving surgeries on children with congenital defects. In conjunction with the organization’s outreach programs to improve overall health care for women and children in impoverished countries, an MGH-based nurse and physician team recently traveled to the Bint Al-Huda Maternity and Child Teaching Hospital in Nasiriyah to brainstorm solutions for the large number of maternal and neonatal fatalities in the region.

Mimi Pomerleau, NP, of the MGH Institute of Health Professions, and Brett Nelson, MD, MPH, global health faculty in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Emergency Medicine, spent a week at Bint Al-Huda earlier this month observing the hospital’s current maternal and newborn health care services. “Brett and Mimi have the ‘on the ground thinking’ and passion that is critical in reversing this horrible situation,” says William Novick, MD, ICHF founder.

During their stay at Bint Al-Huda, Nelson and Pomerleau interviewed clinicians and administrators, coordinated small-group educational discussions and observed maternal and newborn care. “My goal as a nurse is to improve the health of women and their newborns,” Pomerleau says. “It shouldn’t matter where you live; every mother and baby deserves good care.”

Among the greatest difficulties, Pomerleau says, is the hospital’s lack of formal training. “They have the resources, but their problem is their education system. Brett did a mini education session and the next day – with a little bit of encouragement – nurses and physicians were changing their techniques. It gave us hope.”

Though Nelson has worked in dozens of resource-limited countries worldwide, this was his first visit to Iraq. He says the trip highlights the MGH’s dedication to improving health care not just locally, but on a global scale. “One of MGH’s founders said it best, ‘When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor,’ and certainly the individuals in Iraq have clear need. It was a wonderful opportunity and honor to work with them and learn more about their needs.”


SUPPORTING STAFF: Nelson and Pomerleau, far right, with labor physicians at Bint Al-Huda Maternity and Child Teaching Hospital.

With the ICHF’s support, Nelson and Pomerleau’s findings will be submitted to the Iraqi Regional Healthcare Directorate in an effort to implement new training, better clinical care and equipment at Bint Al-Huda. “Our trip with the ICHF speaks to who works here at MGH – people that care,” Pomerleau says. “Our hope is that we can advocate and build interest in newborn and nursing care in developing countries around the world.”

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