Nursing research improves critical
care for Maine's newborns
As a graduate
student, registered nurse Susan Cullen developed a neonatal
transport and triage database, and a training curriculum for
providers who work with substance-exposed newborns
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University of Maine graduate student
Susan Cullen touches the lives of many of the premature babies born in
the northern two-thirds of the state, from Waterville to Madawaska.
Cullen is a clinical nurse educator in the Rosen Neonatal Intensive Care
Unit (NICU) at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) in Bangor. For the
past four years, she has assisted with infant stabilization education to
neonatal staff, as well as to healthcare providers in central, eastern
and northern Maine.
EMMC's neonatal outreach education programs teach skills such as
neonatal stabilization and resuscitation techniques, as well as
recognition and management of neonatal narcotic abstinence syndrome
(NAS), a condition of infants born to mothers with substance abuse
issues. Adequate stabilization of infants prior to transport by
ambulance from a community hospital to one of Maine's two tertiary
centers is essential for optimal infant health outcomes.
"Maine has the lowest infant mortality rate of all of the states for
2005," says Cullen. "I have to believe that education, communication and
standardization of practices have much to do with that statistic."
Cullen, who comes from a family of nurses, started her career in
critical care in 1973 at Maine Medical Center in Portland. At EMMC, she
worked for several years as a resource nurse and as a member of the
Clason Intensive Care Unit staff before joining the NICU. In 2002, she
became a clinical nurse educator. Three years earlier, she had returned
to college to obtain her bachelor's and master's degrees.
"In medicine and nursing, information changes so quickly," says Cullen,
who was a registered nurse with 26 years of professional experience when
she enrolled. "I came back to school because I felt that I was falling
behind in technology skills. Both UMaine and EMMC have given me the
tools to develop my skills and expertise."
Cullen, in collaboration with Paula Corsaro, database specialist in
EMMC's Healthcare Research Department, has developed a neonatal
transport and triage database to be used as a quality assurance and
research tool. Education concerning vital neonatal indicators can be
tracked and the confidential records can assist researchers.
In addition, as part of her master's research, Cullen responded to the
influx of substance-exposed infants in the region by helping to create
an educational program to assist healthcare providers in the
identification, stabilization and treatment of NAS infants. Her
educational outreach efforts also extend to the parents of these infants
who need heightened awareness and the skills to care for these often
"The bottom line is the health of the baby," Cullen says, "The sooner a
sick baby is stabilized, the better he or she will do in the long run.
The goal is to decrease the length of stay, morbidity and mortality
through better techniques and modalities of stabilization and
Research on issues relating to nursing has implications for patient
care, Cullen says. That's why, now that she completed her master's
degree in December, she expects, at some point, to start work on a Ph.D.