Photo: Jane Hahn/Getty Images for Save the Children
Regina Obeng, pictured right above, has provided care to newborns for over 20 years in Kumasi, Ghana. She was the recipient of the first International Neonatal Nursing Award in 2010, and has used the recognition to continue being a powerful advocate for newborns.
I wish to congratulate the 2013 winners of the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award. I had the honor of receiving this award sponsored by the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN), Save the Children and the Neonatal Nurses Association of South Africa (NNASA) in 2010. It is wonderful to see these other nurses also getting honored for their excellent work in the face of challenging odds.
I have worked at the neonatal unit of Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana, for over 20 years saving babies. Our ward is crowded, with about 350 to 400 newborns cared for each month. Even though there are many challenges facing our profession in the care of these babies, as nurses, we cannot accept newborn deaths as inevitable and must strive to improve all efforts in caring for and saving these delicate and vulnerable lives. One of our roles is to serve as a voice for babies and their mothers, speaking up for more space and places for mothers to stay, better supplies and, especially, more knowledgeable staff and ways to retain them.
Awards like the one I received in 2010 can help turn these requests into reality by putting neonatal nursing and the urgent need to save newborns on the international stage. My award in has certainly helped me to achieve many goals. Since 2010 I have achieved the following:
After receiving the award three years ago in Durban, South Africa, I had the opportunity to meet the then Minister of Health in my country. We discussed the needs of newborns and recognition of nurses caring for them. Since there is no accredited training in advanced neonatal nursing practice in Ghana, like many low-income countries, the Minister nominated me for a three week maternal and neonatal care training which was sponsored by the Arab League of Nations in Cairo University Faculty of Nursing- in Egypt.
Greater awareness about needs for newborns
The recognition I gained from receiving the award gave me a stronger voice in Ghana to raise public awareness about the issues facing mothers and newborn babies, particularly prematurity.
I also had an opportunity to present the award to the Asantehene, the King of the Ashantis at a grand ceremony attended by other paramount Chiefs and other dignitaries at the King’s palace in Ghana. The program was featured prominently in the media to also create more awareness on neonatal care.
The Nurses and Midwives Council of Ghana featured me on the 2011 calendar which also put a focus on neonatal nursing as a specialty.
Developments in national policies and curriculum
My meeting with the Chief Executive Officer/Registrar of Nurses and Midwives Council of Ghana led the Council to later invite me to be an assessor and clinical examiner for the nurses and midwives council in Ghana. Through these new connections, I was invited to participate in the preparation of the final draft policy on neonatal care by the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health. I was also given the opportunity to be part of a team to plan and develop a curriculum for Paediatric Nursing School, which is in the pipeline at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Nursing Faculty in Kumasi.
Improvements to our facility
The award opened the gate for me to interact with visitors, some of which donated various items and machines for the care of newborns. For example, the wife of the King of the Ashantis, the Asantehene, Lady Julia, donated 25 bags of diapers, Electrical Kettle and Fan for the Mother and Baby Unit of the hospital and some chocolate for the workers. Doctors and nurses from Newcastle University and hospital donated three biliblanket phototherapy machines for the treatment of jaundice with three boxes of billi pad vest, six ear thermometers, 10 digital clinical thermometers various sizes of air way, and knitted caps for the newborn. Families from United Arab Emirate also gave knitted caps for the preterm. The King of the Ashantis, the Asantehene is donating a piece of land and working in collaboration with other development partners to put up a modern Children’s Hospital in Kumasi. KATH bought four radiant heaters, four incubators and three infusion pumps for the Mother and Baby Unit of the hospital. I have personally bought and donated an oxygen cylinder and a wheel (mobile oxygen) to four hospitals within the Kumasi Metropolis.
Generally we are receiving more calls for help in neonatal care from nurses/midwives, parents and health workers because of the greater attention and improvements to the facility. More hospitals are bringing their nurses to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital where I work for further training.
Winning the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award in 2010 contributed to my getting an award as the best senior nurse and the overall best worker for 2010 at KATH. In addition, I have gained promotion to the grade of Deputy Director of Nursing Services and posted as the Nurse Manager for Child Health Directorate in KATH.
I have also had the privilege of getting featured in international journals and reports. The prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published my profile in December 2010, and my story was featured in the Journal of Neonatal Nursing. Born Too Soon: The global action report on preterm birth also used my story as an example of recognizing health workers for their dedication in difficult circumstances.
It is my prayer that some of my nurses who show much interest in newborn care are given the support and help they need to pursue further studies to improve on their knowledge and skills in dealing with neonatal care. This will go a long way to expand the capacity and provision of improved neonatal care in my country.
Watch a short interview with nurse Regina Obeng: