Cardiac Alliance has been featured on ShareAmerica, a platform produced by the US Department of State. Our story has been shared to all the US Embassies worldwide. This particular story can be translated into seven different languages. Read the article on ShareAmerica to learn more about our life-saving work in war-torn areas.
The picture of a child with a healed heart is a simple expression of our purpose, however what is often more difficult to show is the ‘behind the scenes’ work we do that is vital to the success of our programs. At Cardiac Alliance we believe that by educating and collaborating with local healthcare teams, we can help to build sustainable pediatric cardiac care services that are capable of caring for hundreds of children with heart defects every year.
The surgery is fascinating and the children are cute but it is the collaboration with the local staff and the growth we see in their team that we, the Cardiac Alliance staff and volunteers find the most exciting.
Each trip begins with the arrival of the Cardiac Alliance team. On our recent trip to Macedonia, Frank Molloy our PICU Nurse Practitioner and Educator first walked our volunteer team through the surgical unit in the hospital and shared the local protocols. Frank could see many changes that had occurred in the 2 months since our last visit- better organization of supplies, two new nurses, the newly developed quick guide “cheat sheets” for the team to refer to, even new decorations in the Pediatric ICU!
With each patient, the Cardiac Alliance team makes sure that the local nurses and doctors are thoroughly involved. The local team in each site already has methods that they are used to and comfortable with and our international volunteers will have come with experience and new ideas to share. We believe that by encouraging the local team to walk through the problem and offer solutions themselves with the assistance of our team, we teach more than we could with a list of orders or a checklist.
On our trips, time is rarely disposable so a lot of the learning is done hands on in the clinical setting though we often hold lectures and small workshops. The key to a successful trip is the development of professional relationships with the local team built on mutual respect, understanding and a common goal. We plan to visit each of our partner sites multiple times per year for several years and with time the local team becomes more independent and confident in their ability to manage the patients. This model of sustained, intermittent support has been very successful for us and now a number of our volunteers come from previously assisted sites.
At Cardiac Alliance we believe that every child matters but doing surgery on one child is not enough! By educating local healthcare professionals and empowering them to provide high quality care in their own region utilizing the available resources, we can ensure that the next hundred children (and the hundred after that) with heart disease have hope and access to the care they each deserve no matter where they are born. You can be a part of changing lives! Volunteer with us or Donate today and help us fill the world with Happy hearts!
Our most recent trip to Libya was truly groundbreaking.
The first open heart surgery in the city’s history and a hospital flooded with camera crews to document the occasion showed just how thrilled the local Libyans by this first mission, but this was also a first for some of our volunteer nurses. Of all places, Angela and Amalie chose war-torn Libya for their first volunteer experience with the Cardiac Alliance.
Here are a few of their thoughts on the whole experience:
How did nursing in Libya compare to nursing back home?
Angela: “I enjoyed how much more time we had to actually pay attention to our patient. Back home, so much time is spent charting everything.”
Amalie: “It’s really cool to see how much you can do with pure assessment and vital signs. Back home, we send for diagnostic tests from the lab constantly, and it helps. But everything felt more efficient not having to jump through so many hoops.”
What made the work challenging?
Angela: Culturally, the accountability and the sense of time was so different.
Amalie: I loved getting to work alongside the locals in terms of cultural exposure, but communication with locals was a big challenge.
I started out frustrated with the local nurses, like they were just a tag-along making my work slower and a bit harder, but I began to realize how valuable they are to the team, especially if you allow and trust them to have responsibilities.
Thoughts on training the Libyan nurses?
Amalie: When you do the work for them, they don’t feel accountable. When you give them the responsibility to do it on their own, they can rise to the occasion and it’s amazing to see.
Stacey told me to make a plan with the nurses I was overseeing, and that worked well. I could leave for a couple hours at a time, and when I checked back they’d done everything right. Setting expectations ahead of time really helped.
How did you find working with Dr. Novick’s team?
Angela: In general, Dr. Novick’s team was really supportive and fun. They weren’t intimidating to approach. I was surprised by how well they all knew each other.
Amalie: I remember handing a little boy to his mother and was impressed that Pasha (ICU Intensivist) was right there helping position chest tubes and IV lines. No doctor back home would be that involved, helping handle the patients.
Highlights of your time in Libya?
Angela: I loved getting to work with the locals. I’d like to experience more of the culture, and I enjoyed visiting Libya because it isn’t a place I could easily travel on my own.
Amalie: It was really cool hanging out with the local nurses, Fatma and Naima, outside of the hospital. It’s great getting to know locals outside of the ICU.
Would you do it again?
Angela: I’d do it again, but I probably wouldn’t come back to Libya. It’s a little more challenging and restrictive than I thought it would be.
Amalie: I may come back to Libya, but I’d like to work in a few other places. I think the main reason I’d come back was to work with the Novick Cardiac Alliance regulars. They’re just really cool and really experienced and fun to be around.
Amalie: This is real nursing. On trips like this, you do things because they need to be done, not just because it’s protocol or a hospital standard. I think that’s what made this all feel so ‘pure’—it’s all about the patient rather than following protocols for their own sake.