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South African Hospital Uses Packard Children's as Model for Nurse Retention

PALO ALTO, Calif., March 13 /PRNewswire/ -- For better or for worse, you don't usually get to pick your siblings. That's why Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is excited to announce the formation of a formal "twinning" relationship with Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital -- the only freestanding children's hospital in sub-Saharan Africa.

Three nurse administrators from Red Cross Children's are visiting Packard Children's through Monday (17) to formalize the twinning, a term chosen to reflect an atmosphere of mutual collaboration and sharing, and plan for an ongoing nurse exchange project between the two institutions.

The partnership represents an international effort to reduce nurses migrating out of developing countries by fostering professional development opportunities, enhancing job satisfaction and supporting clinical care of children in South Africa. It's a two-way street, however, as Packard Children's expects to learn much from its sibling in the southern hemisphere.

"We live in a society that's very rich in resources," said Sandra Staveski, NP, a pediatric cardiac intensive care nurse practitioner at Packard Children's. "This is a chance not only to give back, but also to learn." Staveski initiated the relationship more than two years ago after a medical mission to India with Packard Children's pediatric cardiac surgeon V. Mohan Reddy, MD.

Keeping good nurses and other medical professionals in South Africa is difficult for a number of reasons: relatively low pay as compared to developed countries, difficult social issues and concerns about crime and safety. "There are lots of compelling reasons to leave," said Staveski. "But most really love Africa and would stay if they could." At Packard Children's, nursing retention has been a focus of ongoing efforts and has an overall turnover rate of 5% annually, a low to moderate rate compared to the national average.

The twinning relationship is sponsored by a grant from the medical technology company Medtronic to Children's HeartLink, an international medical nonprofit organization formed to prevent and treat heart disease among children in the developing world. Red Cross Children's selected Packard Children's over Birmingham Children's Hospital in the United Kingdom. Both had expressed an interest in a partnership.

"Packard Children's was an excellent choice for this project because of their previous experience volunteering with Children's HeartLink on a number of missions. Also important was Sandy's knowledge of the organization, her wealth of experience at the bedside and commitment to nursing practice and education," said Andreas Tsakistos, the international programs coordinator for Children's HeartLink. Since 2006, Staveski and several of her nursing colleagues have traveled to Red Cross Children's five times to both learn and teach.

"This will be a partnership where we grow together and learn together," agreed Pam Wells, Packard Children's vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. "The energy and excitement that people express upon hearing about this opportunity is phenomenal."

"The people at Red Cross do wonderful work in an environment that is not as resource-rich as ours. And they're doing it with passion," said Staveski. She cited a simple and innovative solution devised by Red Cross nurses that relies on foot pumps and pipe cleaners to solve what would be an unthinkable situation in the U.S.: the need to discharge a child with a tracheostomy into townships.

"It's amazing what a dedicated group of people like those at Red Cross Children's can do," said Staveski. "Helping them retain more nurses and train other hospitals in the area could make a significant and lasting difference in their world."

About Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Ranked as one of the nation's top 10 pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford is a 272-bed hospital devoted to the care of children and expectant mothers. Providing pediatric and obstetric medical and surgical services and associated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Packard Children's offers patients locally, regionally and nationally the full range of health care programs and services, from preventive and routine care to the diagnosis and treatment of serious illness and injury. For more information, visit


Krista Conger


Todd Kleinheinz


SOURCE Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
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