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01.12.2017 Category: News

COINN, the global voice of neonatal nurses

Image: A neonatal nurse at work (c) EFCNI/Christian Klant Photography

A guest article by Karen Lasby, Karen New, Karen Walker, and Carole Kenner from the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN)

Early neonatal care began with the invention of the infant incubator in Europe in the middle 1800s. Thereafter, the practice of neonatology captured increasing public awareness with displays of fragile, sick newborns housed in incubators at exhibitions in Great Britain, France, and America1,2. In the early 20th century Dr. Martin Couney, considered the father of neonatology, was credited with creating a nursery-like setting, complete with a “trained” nurse, Mademoiselle Louise Recht3. She may be the first recorded neonatal nurse and was a key figure in running the nursery under Dr. Couney’s direction4. The ongoing medical and nursing care needed to support fragile newborns was certainly complex and demanding for the era.

Much has changed over the last few decades and it is now recognized that for universal health coverage to occur, nursing globally needs to be strengthened. Not only do nursing numbers need to be increased, but nurses need to work to their full potential. The profile of nursing needs to be raised and nursing needs to be central to all health policy. Nursing leaders and nursing leadership are needed in the right place to help deliver high quality and cost-effective care. Addressing these issues will improve health, promote gender equality, and support economic growth5. An international initiative ‘Nursing Now’ will attempt to address some of these challenges. Sub-specialties’ of nursing such as the neonatal nursing workforce capacity is unknown and better data are needed on this issue. The Council of International Neonatal Nursing, Inc. (COINN) is addressing this issue through a project funded by Chiesi Foundation to determine skills, knowledge, and types of equipment nurses are using, in Rwanda.  COINN in partnership with the Global Engagement Institute (GEI) in Berlin, Germany is involved in training nurses, community health workers, and other professionals through Helping Babies Breathe and Essential Newborn Care in Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, and Viet Nam.  We have partnered with Dr. Kris Karlsen who trains nurses and others on the S.T.A.B.L.E. program.  

The neonatal nurse provides holistic care to infants in partnership with families, working towards providing care based on the best available evidence for optimal outcomes. The family is considered an integral member of the healthcare team and is actively involved in all aspects of the newborn’s care and decision-making. The neonatal nurse promotes positive family-infant interaction through holding, kangaroo mother care, optimizing breast or bottle feeding, and active participation in the infant’s daily-care needs. Neonatal nurses recognize that the family is the constant in a newborn’s life and an integral part of the care team. Neonatal nurses collaborate with families in the planning and care delivery to their infant. Ultimately, the neonatal nurse’s role is to foster newborn health and family competence, so that they all may thrive at home.

The foundation of neonatal nursing today includes individualized, developmentally supportive and family-centered care. The philosophy of family-centered care (FCC) is considered a central tenet in providing care for newborns and their families with the foundational understanding of FCC being that neonatal nurses work with newborns, families and the healthcare team to meet individual needs6. Family-centered care focuses on the health and well-being of the newborn and the family, through the essential development of a respectful partnership between families and healthcare professionals7.

The COINN is the global voice of over 5000 neonatal nurses in more than 70 countries committed to working with families to save lives, prevent disabilities, decrease health disparities, and improve healthcare outcomes for babies and children worldwide. 

View more (COINN website)


Baker, J. P. (2000). The incubator and the medical discovery of the premature infant. Journal of Perinatology, 20(5), 321-328. doi:10.1038/sj.jp.7200377

Marshall-Baker, A. (2011). Healthful environments for hospitalized infants. Herd, 4(2), 127. 

3 HistoryLink.org. Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition 1909: Baby incubator exhibit and café, pp1-6. Retrieved December 5, 2016.

4 Gartner, L.M., & Gartner, C.B. (2005). The care of premature infants: A historical perspective. In National Institutes of Health (ed.), Neonatal Intensive Care: A history of excellence. A symposium commemorating Child Health Day presented for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (October). Retrieved December 5, 20164.

5 All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health: Triple Impact – how developing nursing will improve health, promote gender equality and support economic growth; London, 17 October 2016.

6 Institute for Family-Centered Care (2005). Family-Centered Care: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved October 2017.

7 Trajkovski, S., Schmied, V., Vickers, M., Jackson, D. (2012). Neonatal nurses’ perspectives of family-centred care: a qualitative study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21, 2477-2487.

Special thanks

The Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN)

President Carole Kenner, PHD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, ANEF
Vice President Karen Walker, PHD, RN
Non Executive Director Karen Lasby, MN, RN
Scretary Karen New, PHD, RN

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