December 22, 2014
By Linda Friedel, KC Nursing News
A symposium focused on the tiniest of patients drew nurses and allied health-care professionals from NICUs in hospitals from throughout the Midwest.
HCA Midwest Health sponsored its fourth annual neonatal symposium on Nov. 14 at the Overland Park Convention Center aimed at cutting-edge research and technology in neonatal care. The regional symposium, “Controversies in Standards of Care: Treatment Advances for the High-Risk Neonate” featured national experts in neonatology. The conference drew more than 200 physicians, nurses, neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, lactation consultants, dietitians, developmental-care specialists and social workers from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado. The symposium was convenient for Midwestern practitioners, said Margaret Meier, RN, BSN, MSL, conference committee member.
“There are not very many opportunities for nurses, practitioners and physicians to get this type of education locally,” Meier said. “It’s all done in far away places on the coast.”
The symposium featured five national speakers, each a specialist in their field, Meier said. Speakers included Laura Brown, MD, neonatologist at the University of Colorado Children’s Hospital; Waldemar “Wally” A. Carlo,
MD, neonatologist at the Women’s and Infant’s Center at the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham (UAB) and the Edwin M. Dixon professor of pediatrics at UAB; Mary Coughlin, RN, MS, NNP, president and global learning officer for Caring Essentials Collaborative, LLC in Boston; Roger F. Soll, MD, neonatologist at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., and the H.W. Wallace professor of neonatology at the University of Vermont College; and Joseph D. Tobias, MD, chief of the department of anesthesiology/pain medicine and professor of anesthesiology/pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn from the research these speakers have been doing and bring that back to their own NICUs,” Meier said.
Between sessions and during breaks, participants had a chance to visit with vendors and get some hands-on experience with new technology and devices for premature infants. Exhibitors included Vygon, Bimeco Group, TLC Medical, APS and Natus Newborn. Products included feeding tubes, therapy blankets, milk warmers, developmental care products, video equipment and monitors.
“This is a great way for staff members to look and feel and touch things and bring them back to their nurse managers if they like it,” Meier said.
Dena Hubbard, M.D., symposium moderator, said the event included national and international speakers. Their goal was to bring speakers in the field on hot topics right here in the Midwest, she said. The planning committee was especially excited to have renowned international speaker Wally Carlo. Carlo presented two sessions – “Minimizing CLD Using Gentle Ventilation, CPCP and Surfactant” and “Helping Babies Breathe: The Global Project.” Helping Babies Breathe is a neonatal resuscitation curriculum that has been introduced in countries with limited resources to help save newborns.
“We are very excited about Wally Carlo,” Hubbard said at the conference. “He is really a global speaker. It’s good to have an awareness. We are so blessed to have the resources here to take care of babies.”
Other sessions looked at pain control, sedation for babies and probiotics for infants, Hubbard said. Probiotics are currently off label in the U.S., she said, but look promising. Probiotics for infants are not FDA approved but are being used in Europe, she said. A new study of 1,300 infants showed probiotics are not a benefit, she said.
“We are trying to prevent infections and necrotizing entercolitis (NEC),” Hubbard said. “Probiotics can help. It’s being looked at. There’s definitely potential.”
Hubbard said she was drawn to neonatology because she finds the medicine fascinating. It is a chance to be part of families’ lives during a special time. Premature deliveries can happen to anyone, Hubbard said. Ending up in the NICU is not the way the dream goes, she said. Parents expect to leave with a healthy baby. The NICU is not part of that dream. It is nobody’s fault, Hubbard said.
“Things happen,” Hubbard said. “The placenta is a funny organ. It just happens. Mommy guilt is the worst.”
The best part of her job is getting to see these babies grow up, Hubbard said.
“That’s why we all do what we do — (to see a child) be a NICU grad and be healthy,” Hubbard said.
Diane Sparks, RN, BSN, coordinator of the Midwest Neonatal Transport Team, was one of several hundred health-care professionals to attend the neonatal symposium. Sparks has been a NICU nurse for nearly three decades. She says the conference offers evidence-based practice. She wanted to learn new strategies to take back to her staff, she said.
“I want to learn how I can take care of our families and babies better,” Sparks said. “What are new in studies? How can we improve on the care we give to our families and babies?”
The symposium came together four years ago after nurse practitioners from NICUs in area hospitals put their heads together, said Lynn Vest, RNC, MSN, neonatal nurse practitioner at Overland Park Regional Medical Center and chairman of the conference committee. Vest said she regularly kept in touch with NPs from Menorah, Centerpoint and Research medical centers to share best practices. The idea came up to develop a conference.
“It started as a simple idea,” Vest said. “We are all dealing with the same issues. We wanted to present something that would be interesting to all.”
The conference is for any healthcare professional who works with premature infants – nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, dietitians and neonatologists, Vest said. The conference goal is to improve what specialists who work in neonatology do for babies. The committee brings national speakers who are active researchers, and it questions what the industry is doing now, she said. The group pursues the most compelling researchers, she said, looking for those who are making these cutting-edge changes in care.
“It is a perpetually changing area of nursing and medicine,” Vest said. “We can’t be content with what we are doing.”
Mary Coughlin spoke on “Trauma-Informed Age-Appropriate Care in the NICU.”
“Every human encounter has an impact with the babies — good and bad,” Coughlin said.
Infants feel prolonged pain, she said. They interpret the world based on their emotions. It over-stimulates their stress response, which has lifelong implications, she said. There is evidence it can lead to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome, she said. Voice and touch is important.
“It’s about being in the moment with the patient,” Coughlin said. “Support the baby. Babies are amazing human beings.”