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Children’s HeartLink Program Helps Cardiac Nurses Grow Confidence and Skills

Published May 6, 2022

Every year, we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12) to honor nurses and recognize their impact on patient care. This Nurses Week, we’re featuring the Children’s HeartLink Nurse Residency Program (NRP) aimed at empowering cardiac nurses in developing countries and enhancing their skills. In 2022, Children’s HeartLink is piloting a virtual version of the NRP, to give even more nurses the opportunity to learn and improve care for their patients.

Nurse Residency Program, India

The in-hospital NRP program was the first of its kind in India when it launched in 2014. Designed by leading US and Indian nurse educators, this program has helped cardiac nurses establish a proactive approach to heart care. Read about Dr. Sanda Staveski, a nurse educator from the University of California San Francisco, who has been leading the planning, development and implementation of the Children’s HeartLink Nurse Residency Program.

This year, Children’s HeartLink has transformed the hospital-based NRP curriculum to be delivered virtually – via lecture videos and group meetings. Virtual training is organized for nurses from four hospital sites in India and one in Malaysia. It’s being led by 11 volunteer nursing experts from the University of California San Francisco, Children’s National Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Children’s Health Orange County.

Specialized training

Leela (on the left) and Sangeetha, residents of the Children’s HeartLink NRP. (2016) They decided to study to improve their skills despite long working hours, stress and work on weekends and holidays.

The nurses from India who completed NRP in person are reflecting upon the program.

Leela from Bangalore attended classes in 20015 and 2016, shortly after becoming a nurse at Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences. “It helped me transition from a student to nursing confidently. Because of the Nurse Residency Program, I have more confidence. I’m able to provide better care to my patients, and I’ve improved my clinical judgment.”

“This program taught me how to early detect symptoms of sickness through close observation of vital signs and peripheral pulses. I hope to have the opportunity to participate in more practical sessions to keep my knowledge up-to-date,” said Resmi KB, a nurse at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, who completed the program 4 years ago. “If a baby is going to collapse after surgery, we know now how to identify the early warning signs of this,” adds Resmi’s colleague Aswathy S.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Shinu SJ from Kochi says that NRP helped her understand the significance of specialized training for pediatric cardiology. “It also opened my mind to a new way of learning and thinking for future opportunities.”

“The biggest improvement we see is how nurses improve their confidence and knowledge after completing our program,” says Children’s HeartLink Country Director Adriana Dobrzycka. “They feel more prepared for caring for their patients and even speaking with patient families. They feel happy that with gained knowledge they can contribute more to patient experience and recovery.”

There were positive trends in several organizational and child health outcomes during and after NRP implementation. The most significant one was a reduction in the mortality rate.

Nurses are key to quality outcomes 

Nurses contribute significantly to the outcome of patients. With support from Children’s HeartLink and some of the top teaching hospitals in the world, nurses everywhere have the opportunity to grow their confidence and skills to become even better advocates for themselves and their patients.

“Studies have shown that higher levels of nursing education are associated with better patient outcomes. However, sometimes nurses are overlooked and their potential to contribute to the medical teams isn’t optimized. Our goal is to ensure that nurses play an optimal role in cardiac teams to serve children in the best possible way.  We are grateful to have a group of loyal and dedicated nursing professionals who are at the helm of developing this training for their peers,” says Children’s HeartLink Vice President of Programs and Evaluation  Anne Betzner.

The NRP would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of our long-time nursing volunteers and supporters. Read our 2021 Annual Report, to learn about our impact, medical volunteers and supporters.