August 31, 2001

Titan gift will help newborns

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Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Kim Miller, executive director for Nurse for Newborns, Fred Miller, offensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans, Dr. Patricia C. Temple, clinical professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and Tracy Coyne, MSN, nursing supervisor for Nurse for Newborns, gather at a press conference announcing the new non-profit program and the Miller's startup gift of $800,000. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Titan gift will help newborns

Tracy Coyne graduated from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing with a master’s degree in Health Systems Management earlier this month. Three days later she was being introduced as the nursing supervisor of a new non-profit organization called Nurses for Newborns.

The program, started in 1991 in St. Louis, provides in-home nursing visits to families to prevent infant mortality, child abuse and neglect. Nashville will become the third city in the U.S. to bring this program to the community. A second program was started in Washington D.C.

For Coyne, who had worked at Vanderbilt University’s NICU from 1985 to 1990 and the PICU from 1997 to 1999, Nurses for Newborns is a much needed program that will help secure the future of both infants and families.

“We want to empower parents to be parents,” Coyne said. “In the best of circumstances, it can be stressful to bring home a newborn; for families that might have an infant released from the intensive care unit or have difficulty making ends meet it can be quite overwhelming.

“Nurses for Newborns will form the bridge for parents when they leave the hospital to become more secure in their role as caretakers,” she said.

The Nashville program is being supported by a generous contribution from Titans offensive tackle Fred Miller and his wife Kim. The pair became active in the St. Louis organization and wanted to provide a substantial resource to the Nashville community.

“Fred and I have been involved in this organization for the past six years and have committed to personally funding the first two years of the program,” said Kim Miller. “We are wanting to provide a safety net for those people who are falling through the cracks.”

The Millers have agreed to fund the program with a $800,000 gift. Kim Miller will also serve as the non-paid executive director of the organization, which will serve as a prototype in trying to expand this program to other cities across the country.

Vanderbilt along with Baptist Hospital, Centennial and Metro will collaborate with Nurses for Newborns to help the organization’s effort to hire five full-time nurses with NICU experience over the course of the first year.

For now, Coyne will not only serve as nursing supervisor, but she will also be the sole nurse on staff initially as others are being trained and brought into the organization. Each nurse will probably manage up to 30 families.

“We expect to serve more than 1,000 people in the first year,” Kim Miller said. “But we will need the support of others also. We want to work hard to endow this program so that it will be able to run no matter what happens to Kim and Fred Miller.”

Tennessee is a prime location for such a program, Miller said. According to statistics from Kids Count, a national network assessing the condition of children state-by-state, Tennessee ranks 46th for pre-term labor, 42nd for pre-teen pregnancy and 39th for low maternal education.

“It takes a very dedicated nurse to find some of the young mothers,” said Dr. Patricia C. Temple, clinical professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

“Mothers develop an important relationship with the nurse. The nurse is the mentor. It is the therapeutic bond that is key– that one-on-one relationship is going to be essential.”

Temple, the physician who reviewed the protocol for the Nashville program, is very familiar with programs like Nurses for Newborns. Prior to coming to Nashville, she was responsible for starting a similar program in Seattle called Best Beginnings. Its main focus was helping pregnant teen-agers through their pregnancies and deliveries and to become good parents.

“It’s scary to take a newborn home on all levels,” Temple said. “Then having various levels of support like oxygen, feeding tubes, antibiotics and monitors creates additional responsibility and stress.

“I believe that all moms deserve at least one home-visit from an experienced nurse, while some need more intense visits. Programs like this promote healthy parenting. We are helping give them the resources they need to be good parents.”

The Nurses for Newborns founder, Sharon Rohrbach, R.N., began the organization after becoming frustrated at the number of newborns returning to the emergency room of the hospital where she worked. As a newborn nursery nurse, she believed these return visits could be prevented if parents had more information on parenting and how to properly care for any of the medical concerns of the infants.

There are four basic components of the program:

• Bridge to the Future – focuses on medically fragile infants most of whom were discharged from a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

• Bright Futures – serves families without major risk factors.

• Safe Beginnings – helps pregnant women or women who have just given birth who are mentally or physically challenged.

• Teen Parent – assists moms under the age of 19.

The Nashville organization expects to begin seeing its first patients in September.