Nursing Student Represents UKZN at African Conference
Ms Bupe Mwamba, a final-year student in the Bachelor of Nursing Advanced Practice Programme in Midwifery and Neonatal care on UKZN’s Howard College campus, presented a paper on the topic of newborn care at the 2014 East, Central and Southern Africa College of Nursing (ECSACON) Conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe earlier this month.
ECSACON and its partners organised the 11th Scientific Conference and 5th Quadrennial General Meeting which brought together Nursing staff from all ECSACON member countries, including representatives from the International Council for Nurses (ICN) and International Council for Midwives (ICM), to discuss issues pertaining to improving maternal, newborn and child health, and strengthening healthcare systems.
The theme for the Conference was “Increasing access to quality nursing and midwifery care: nurses and midwives taking the leading role”. Innovations and excellence in nursing and midwifery were discussed, along with evidence-based primary healthcare practices/approaches.
Mwamba’s topic was: “Scaling essential new-born care”. ‘Every human life is precious regardless of how it came about, hence quality of care at every stage of human life is critical,’ she said. ‘Neonatal care has remained a challenge in many African countries … This has been due to a lack of trained neonatal nurses as experience is enhanced with specialisation.’
Early neonatal death refers to the death of an infant within the first week. ‘There is a need to scale up essential newborn care as 85.7% of ECSACON member countries have a double-digit figure when it comes to neonatal mortality rates, while only 14.28% have a single figure,’ said Mwamba.
Essential interventions involve adequate care of the mother, including nutrition, education and healthcare, while antenatal interventions include tetanus toxoid immunisation and iron, iodine and folate supplementation.
During labour, delivery and the first few hours of the infant’s life, a clean environment was necessary, with temperature maintenance and emergency obstetric care on hand for any complications. Mwamba also specified that over the next four weeks after birth, exclusive breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child was vital. ‘Cord care and hygiene is important, with early recognition of danger signs and prompt care-seeking,’ she said.
Mwamba discussed short- and long-term plans for neonatal care, suggesting the implementation of non-costly short-term measures such as the creation of job descriptions for staff in neonatal units.
A long-term plan would be the introduction of a degree in Neonatal Nursing Science to build capacity among staff in neonatal units, with midwifery as a pre-requisite qualification for the course.