Vietnamese nurse Nguyen Thi Minh Hong has been named the winner of the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Awards 2016 for her dedication to mothers and babies in one of Vietnam's poorest areas over the past three decades.
Hong was honored at the Ninth International Conference of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN) in Canada on August 15. She and Nigerian nurse Adeyemo Abass Kola, the other winner, were chosen among neonatal nurses nominated by their peers and employers in 14 countries.
A team of maternal and newborn health experts from NGO Save the Children and COINN, who have sponsored the award since 2009, selected the awardees.
“These two nurses are brilliant examples of the determination and hard work of so many neonatal nurses around the world,” said Karen New, president of COINN.
“We are awed by their steadfastness, sense of purpose, and most of all the hopefulness they bring to sometimes daunting work conditions.”
Hong works in the rural Yen Bai Province where poor roads, local customs, and language barriers have impeded access to and knowledge of good health practices around birth.
Hong has worked for the past 34 years, serving a primarily ethnic minority Hmong population.
She travels nearly two hours to her clinic every day, providing checkups to mothers and newborns, assisting with deliveries, and conducting family planning consultations.
“The work is hard and travel is difficult,” Hong said. “But I love this job. When a delivery is done I feel so happy to welcome a new baby. And if the baby is not well, we take care of them and they get healthy after our care and I feel so honored about that.”
Carole Kenner, COINN’s chief executive officer, said Kola and Hong have inspired others with their leadership and passion.
“If more neonatal nurses were properly supported, trained, and supplied with essential medicines and tools, we could help ensure that every newborn – no matter where – had the chance to survive birth and get a good start on life,” she said.
Previous winners were from Ghana, India, Kenya and Malawi.
Globally, 2.7 million babies die during their first month of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Over 98 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income settings in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Save the Children, while most of these deaths are preventable, success depends on the availability, skill, and commitment of the professionals who care for sick newborns.
Unfortunately, most neonatal nursing education programs and recognition of neonatal nursing as a career occur in high-income countries, where neonatal deaths are relatively rare, it said.