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Nurses from Guatemala Graduate from Rigorous Neonatal Program

Posted on Dec 19, 2018

Nurses from three hospitals in Guatemala graduate from a pilot neonatal care program created by The Nightwatch Foundation and Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital
Nine nurses from three hospitals in Guatemala participated in a pilot neonatal care program from The Nightwatch Foundation and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Nine nurses from three hospitals in Guatemala—Hospital Universitario Esperanza, Hospital Herrera Llerandi and Nuestra Señora Del Pilar Hospital—proudly walked the stage at a recent graduation ceremony surrounded by their families and friends.

They were recognized for completing an intense program that will help nurses like Magda Camey and Marleny Garcia to improve neonatal health care in their country.

“We dream of being better each day,” Camey says. “There are many things we would like to implement but are taking it one step at a time—with the hope of a future that we want.”

“It is personal growth,” Garcia explains. “There isn't a price, there isn’t something that says we’ve got to get to this level, and what we’re trying to do is be change agents.”

The course was crafted by The Nightwatch Foundation in partnership with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Roberto Sosa, M.D., medical director of the hospital’s International Program, spearheaded the curriculum and identified Spanish-speaking faculty to teach. He had one major goal in mind:

“That we create a seed,” he says. “So that they can go to their own hospitals and teach them what they learn. So the nurses will benefit and of course their patients will benefit.”

The inspiration behind this whole program? Little Alexia, now 8 years old and thriving. 

“Alexia was born here in Guatemala and at that time she was a micro-preemie, so she was 2½  pounds and she was born with a congenital problem in her esophagus,” says Michelle, who is a co-founder of The Nightwatch Foundation.

She was transported here to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to receive the expert care she desperately needed.

“We knew that our best hope was taking her abroad,” Michelle explains. “We’ve been friends with Dr. Sosa’s family for years, so it was a no-brainer. We had a point of reference and a contact and he was wonderful in facilitating us getting there.”

Michelle and her family started The Nightwatch Foundation as a way to give back after Alexia’s scary start at life. The name comes from the idea that nighttime is when nurses are sometimes the sole health care provider, which means proper training is important.

“I’m super emotional especially if I think back on how much work this has been,” Michelle says.

It’s been a lot of work for Michelle and her family—and a lot of work from the nurses. Each of them were hand-selected and went through an intense online curriculum with exams along the way.

“I’m super proud of the commitment that they’ve had and the work that they’ve done, Michelle says. “They’ve been super enthusiastic, and I think that we were able to get a stellar group of nurses.”

It all wrapped up with a trip to Johns Hopkins All Children’s to get in-person, hands-on education including medical simulation and observation in the neonatal intensive care unit. Now the nurses have new knowledge for better patient outcomes.

The nurses received a certificate of attendance for the week that they were in the United States at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, and they also received a diploma certifying that they successfully completed the educational course, and that means everything to Marleny and Magda.

“It’s an emotion that truly doesn’t have a price. It’s like when people win a prize and they win the grand prize,” Marleny says. “That’s how we felt.”

“It’s very important for us as nurses,” Marleny says. “It is a big responsibility, and it’s an enormous commitment for us because we really are the first group representing our country here.”

Now with the pilot program completed, the goal is to expand The Nightwatch course to improve care in other countries, too–from Central America to the Caribbean–and, they hope, beyond.

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