Helping babies breathe easier – around the world

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Neonatal care is Macartney’s calling. So much so that instead of going fishing or taking a road trip to Disney World, he opted to use his summer vacation (two years in a row) to travel to Shanghai to train physicians in neonatal care.

Macartney says physicians in The People’s Republic of China treat high-risk babies, but do not have specialized skills in the practice of neonatology. In 1999, Canadian neonatologists formally recognized the gap in care and realized that more babies in China would have a better chance at a healthy life if Canada helped introduce the right training and technology.

“China’s neonatal care is not at the same level as Canada’s,” explains Macartney, an RT in Mount Sinai’s Valentine Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “Physicians and allied health-care professionals bring specialized neonatology skills to China, enhancing their care for patients.”

The Canadian Neonatal Network was established in partnership with the Shanghai Children’s Hospital of Fudan University. Together, they have created the National Neonatal Training Program, a two-year program allowing physicians in China to spend one year of clinical training in Shanghai and the other in a clinical placement in Canada.

Macartney is one of many Canadian allied health professionals including neonatologists, registered nurses, respiratory therapists and dietitians who work in Shanghai on a monthly rotation to best train Chinese physicians. In 2005 and 2006, he travelled to Shanghai to take his work beyond the walls of Sinai’s NICU.

“The National Neonatal Training Program was a chance to broaden my horizon professionally,” says Macartney, who has been an RT at Mount Sinai for eight years. “I wanted to teach in Shanghai to bridge the gap in neonatal care, and I knew that using my RT skills to train physicians would benefit current and future high-risk babies in China. The work is rewarding. I connect with the babies and their families and know that as an RT, the NICU is my calling.”

Respiratory Therapists assist physicians in a variety of ways to help stabilize or improve breathing for patients of all kinds – from high-risk babies with immature lungs to adults with chronic lung disease.

“I focused on teaching the physicians effective respiratory care strategies to manage high-risk babies,” explains Macartney. “I taught them how to treat premature babies who were on life support or who needed mechanical ventilation.”

Macartney says the heart-felt thank you and feedback from his Chinese colleagues and the formal thank-you note from the country’s health minister in 2005 made it an easy decision to return last summer.

“My best experience from the program was not one particular event. It was realizing that through teaching essential RT skills, I made a significant impact to the care provided overseas,” he says. “I still keep in touch with many of the physicians and nursing staff that I was teaching, and they still consult me in the management of their patients.”

In fact, Dr. Zhi Hya Li, a physician Macartney taught in Shanghai, is currently training at Mount Sinai.

Along with Macartney, other Mount Sinai representatives who have participated in the program include Dr. Anne Jeffries, Dr. Kin Fan Young Tai, Dr. Vibhuti Shah, Dr. Karel O’Brien, and Registered Nurse Marianne Bracht. Mount Sinai RTs Bianca Lee and Rebecca Uy have committed to teaching this summer.