Community Outreach: Blazing new trails from Akron to Haiti

Julie Tsirambidis is helping to establish first pediatric nurse practitioner training program in Haiti

Julie Tsirambidis is helping to establish first pediatric nurse practitioner training program in Haiti

Advanced practice providers (APP) across the country have been charting a new course for healthcare delivery. At Akron Children’s Hospital, Julie Tsirambidis, MSN, CNP, has been leading that charge as the director of the Advanced Practice Provider Center.

Tsirambidis serves as a leader, mentor and resource for Akron Children’s more than 140 advanced practice providers, including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, registered nurse anesthetists and physician assistants. These clinicians provide high quality care to patients in a variety of clinical settings.

While she may be an advocate for how healthcare is delivered at Akron Children’s, Tsirambidis recently expanded her impact to the people of Haiti, who are still suffering the effects of the massive earthquake that hit their country in January 2010. Tsirambidis was one of 15 Akron Children’s employees who traveled in October 2011 to St. Damien Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s only free, pediatric hospital.

Akron Children’s established an affiliation agreement with St. Damien in June 2010, resulting in ongoing healthcare missions through Akron Children’s Office of Pediatric Global Health.

Through these missions, employees provide much-needed expertise and care. During the October trip, Akron Children’s nurses Stephanie Estephan, BSN, N, CPN, Connie Hissong, BSN, RN and Ann Ryan, MSN, CPNP, taught Haitian doctors and nurses Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS).

The team also cared for patients and families. While the Haitian physicians were in training, Tsirambidis ran a clinic along with a resident and two interpreters.

“We expected to see probably 60 patients, but many more arrived for much-needed care,” Tsirambidis said. “We did the best we could. I knew without a doubt that it would be a humbling experience, but it was 10 times more humbling than I thought.”

The hospitals are exploring the use of telehealth technology to give St. Damien’s providers more timely access to lab and radiology services, and are collaborating to bring children to the United States for quaternary care.

On each trip, Akron Children’s delivers much-needed supplies to St. Damien Children’s Hospital including: 

Dr. John Clark talks with nursing staff in Haiti

Dr. John Clark talks with nursing staff in Haiti

Haiti is now dealing with a cholera epidemic and its healthcare system is overwhelmed with not nearly enough providers. The island nation has a population of 9 million with 3 million under the age of 14.

To date, more than 7,050 Haitians have died and 5 percent of the population has contracted the disease. Many hope these tragedies will focus attention on healthcare and improve access for all.

The World Health Organization reports that although many international agencies have worked to improve Haiti’s situation, the country’s healthcare future lies in the hands of its own providers.

To address the provider shortage, Tsirambidis and other team members laid the groundwork with St. Damien and Quisqueya University to create Haiti’s first pediatric nurse practitioner training program, with Akron Children’s advanced practice providers serving as faculty.

Ten students are scheduled to start the two-year program in fall 2012, which includes a five-year work commitment to help subsidize the cost of attendance.

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Blazing new trails from Akron to Haiti
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