What is a Full-Team Training Visit Like? Children’s HeartLink in Kunming

by Faith Adams, Communications Director

In December the pediatric cardiac team from the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital joined us for the first full-team training visit to our newest partner site, in Kunming, China. Three of these team members have children under the age of two, yet they dropped everything and flew halfway around the world with us the week before Christmas, to help train and mentor their peers in Kunming.

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan province in southeast China. The city has tree-lined streets and many gardens and flowers, and is known as “The Garden City” or “The City of Eternal Spring.”

The week we were there the weather was unseasonably cold, but we were greeted warmly by everyone we met, beginning with the delegation of 17 from First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University that met us at the airport after our 24-hour journey from Minneapolis. They met us with friendly smiles and greetings, and gave each of us a beautiful bouquet of flowers that adorned our hotel rooms for the week. This generous gesture was characteristic of the hospitality with which we were treated throughout the week.

As a new staff member at Children’s HeartLink, it was a privilege and an honor to make this trip, and to see our work up close.

What is a full-team training visit like?

A full-team training visit involves an entire pediatric cardiac team of medical volunteers who travel to a partner site for a full week of training and mentoring. The team included:
• a pediatric cardiac surgeon
• a cardiologist
• an interventional cardiologist (a cardiologist who performs surgical procedures in a catheter lab)
• a pediatric anesthesiologist
• an intensivist (a doctor who specializes in caring for patients in the intensive care unit after surgery)
• a perfusionist (a specialist who runs the heart-lung machine during open heart surgery)
• a respiratory therapist (a specialist who manages and maintains the patient’s airway following open heart surgery)
• a nurse who specializes in pediatric cardiac care

We were also joined by long-time Children’s HeartLink volunteer interpreter Quan Ni, Ph.D., a Minnesota-based biomedical engineer who was born in China and also has expertise in cardiology. Quan interprets the language for us and, equally important, he also interprets Chinese culture.

Children’s HeartLink’s approach focuses on the importance of teamwork, which is what a full-team training visit demonstrates. Good outcomes after heart surgery aren’t simply the result of a surgeon’s technical skill, but a testament to the entire team working together to care for the patient, especially in the first hours and days after surgery.

The Minnesota and Kunming pediatric cardiac teams worked side by side in the catheter lab and in the operating room during the week, but a great deal of time was also spent reviewing cases, and discussing teamwork and patient safety. Near the end of the week, the team members from Kunming gave a presentation highlighting the things they hope to learn and the ways they want to improve their program while partnering with Children’s HeartLink over the next several years. The team members’ eagerness was matched by their appreciation.

Dr. An Qi, a cardiac surgeon from our partner site West China Hospital in Chengdu, joined us for part of the week, which enriched the experience for everyone. As a surgeon at a Children’s HeartLink partner site since 2006, Dr. An could remember and fully understand the challenges facing the new team in Kunming. The program in Chengdu has advanced significantly and now performs more and more complex cases, with better results. Dr. An and his colleagues in Chengdu will serve as regional training partners for the Kunming team. This relationship is the model and eventual goal for our sites: that as the work they do advances, they will train and mentor their peers in the region.