By Amy Humme MACN (Stage 2 ENL)
Graduate Registered Nurse, Monash Health.
As I stepped out of Ho Chi Minh City Airport I was struck by the humidity, noise and bustling streets of Vietnam. For my first time overseas, I was beyond excited for what was ahead…
During July 2019, I was privileged to be one of eleven Bachelor of Nursing Students from Swinburne University of Technology to partake in a two-week nursing study tour to Can Tho, Vietnam. The study tour was run in partnership with Antipodeans Abroad and based at both Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy Hospital (CTUMP) and Truong Long Medical Station, a rural health clinic in Can Tho, Vietnam.
During the first week of the study tour, we were warmly welcomed into the Nursing Faculty at CTUMP Hospital. A highlight was meeting with third-year Vietnamese nursing students and participating in collaborative classes together. With guidance from interpreters and English-speaking students, we completed tutorial activities and overcame language barriers to speak the universal language of nursing. Between karaoke breaks and trying local fruits, we shared knowledge, experiences and stories from both Vietnamese and Australian cultures. It was a remarkable learning experience.
Our time at CTUMP Hospital was spent within the Internal Medicine and General Surgery Departments; and what an eye-opening experience it was. In contrast to my experiences in Western hospitals the ratios were higher, shifts significantly longer and equipment sparse. One medical student I spoke with was amazed when I discussed a tympanic thermometer, they had never heard of one before. A call bell system was also non-existent, and the hospital wards were open, allowing fresh air (and sometimes tropical rain) through the wards. In addition, family involvement was a huge cultural aspect of care delivery. Families provided food and drinks for patients, attended to personal hygiene needs and pressure area care. This led to a personalised health care experience for patients and freed more time for nursing staff. Pushing my prior perceptions of care aside, I was amazed and commended the exceptional care provided to the patients.
While in CTUMP Hospital, regardless of how busy the doctors or nurses were, they spent time talking with us discussing patient cases and introducing us to the routine of the hospital. A few of us were even offered the privileged of watching surgical procedures! With assistance from interpreters, we also had wonderful conversations or ‘interviews’ with patients. Hearing personalised stories and insight from Vietnamese patients themselves was incredible. It reminded me to always take the time to listen to patients and ensure they understand education given.
One of the most rewarding experiences of the study tour was delivering a presentation alongside classmates at Truong Long Medical Station. Our topic was Diabetes Management and with the use of props, demonstrations and teach-back methods, the presentation was a success. Part of this was learning how to present without technology and with interpreters, this was a big learning curve and very worthwhile. Seeing the smiles on the audience’s faces and engagement in our discussions was truly rewarding. As a group, we felt we were giving back to the community and imparting knowledge through a strengths-based nursing model, a key component of our nursing curriculum.
Looking back almost a year on, the study tour to Vietnam was one of the most rewarding experiences of my degree. The connections, friends and memories I made will stick with me throughout my nursing career. Even in my current role as a Graduate Registered Nurse, the impact of the experience is evident. The study tour positively influenced my perception of cultural awareness and family involvement in care, and appreciation of the available technology and equipment in Australia. To any second or final year nursing student, I would strongly encourage you to partake in a nursing study tour abroad if the opportunity arises. You won’t regret it. A huge thank you to Swinburne University of Technology and academics Amanda Connors MACN, and Loretta Garvey MACN, for the memorable experience.