Brecksville Nurse Practitioner Working to Improve Health Care in Haiti

When Julie Tsirambidis thinks of her time in Haiti, she remembers the stunning amount of need. She spent her nights in a tent, waking up each day to a line of hundreds of people waiting outside St. Damien Hospital for care. Sometimes, the children waiting for care would die before they even reached the pediatric hospital, she said. They lacked the basics: shelter, clean water, medical care. It was a different world for the mother and director of advanced practice. ?To us, a fever is treatable. To them, it's devastating,? said Tsirambidis, a nurse practitioner forAkron Children?s Hospital. An Ohio-Haiti partnership Akron Children?s Hospital has a program with St. Damien Hospital where staff members make trips to Haiti a few times a year, offering a variety of care and giving the permanent staff time to train. Tsirambidis, who works at the hospital?s Brecksville office, reached out to the doctor in charge of the main program about a year and a half ago and asked if they needed nurse practitioners. Jeff Kempf, the doctor who created the program, took her up on the offer.Haiti is a country with a lot of strife, but also a lot of opportunity, Kempf said. Tsirambidis made the trip last fall with a team that included Tracey Herstich, a critical care nurse practitionerat Akron Children?s Hospital. Tsirambidis and Herstich volunteered for St. Damien?s during their eight-day trip, Tsirambidis in the clinic, Herstich running the in-house side of things and both helping with the ER. Helping improve Haiti's healthcare in the long run Tsirambidis and Herstichalso worked hard to lay the groundwork for a nurse practitioner training program at a local university in Haiti. They are very few pediatricians in the country, she said. ?The whole goal is to create providers in Haiti,? Tsirambidis said. There are challenges, Tsirambidis said. The program needs funding. It will have to include a lot of online learning, since the staff can?t take much time off for higher education, but Internet connectivity in the area is limited. It will take awhile, Tsirambidis said, but once it?s in place, it will revolutionize St. Damien?s health care delivery. People will be able to train faster and set up clinics, diminishing the sometimes fatal wait time. Tsirambidis and Herstich were both named a 2012 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner of the Year by the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners for their work in Haiti, specifically their part in creating the pediatric nurse practitioner program. They received their awards at a ceremony in late October.