Education without borders – Students rural Vietnam nursing experience

“It was absolutely incredible, I loved every minute. The experiences and the confidence that I gained were absolutely invaluable”
1 Mar 2018

A group of University of Southern Queensland (USQ) students have gone from the nursing labs in Toowoomba, to a makeshift health clinic under a tent in Vietnam.

The students recently returned to Australia following several weeks providing primary healthcare in rural Vietnam communities.

It was a transformative experience, according to student Sally Pomerenke.

“It was absolutely incredible, I loved every minute. The experiences and the confidence that I gained were absolutely invaluable,” she said.

“The basic level of healthcare was very different. In Australia, we take so much for granted when it comes to treatment, as well as the understanding of the importance of hygiene, oral care, nutrition, and drinking water.

“A prescription may only be a short-term solution, but education can help them address their illnesses on an ongoing basis.

“This trip allowed us to empower locals to make good lifestyle choices, something that can be sustained when we’re not there to provide medication that they otherwise couldn’t afford.”

In addition to the skill development, Ms Pomerenke said she was impacted by the positive response and overall appreciative attitude of the patients.

“They said they were blessed and fortunate to get even a little bit of healthcare,” she said.

“One person had lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. It was bit of a shock that he came to us for help, it was an emotional experience.”

In addition to the mobile clinics, the students toured and worked in regional hospitals, ran workshops and visited a local school. At every stop, they gained first-hand experience the state of healthcare in each region, as well as its importance within the local communities.

Despite the disparity between the Vietnamese and Australian systems, Ms Pomerenke said she was optimistic for the future of healthcare.

“Their desire to learn is inspiring. I’m excited to see where they’re going as everyone had a real drive to better themselves,” she said.

“I can’t wait to go back some day.”

The Vietnam nursing placement is funded through the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan Mobility Program which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

For information on studying health and community at USQ, visit www.usq.edu.au/health-and-community.

Many young children sitting on step in front of house
In addition to the mobile clinics, the students toured and worked in regional hospitals, ran workshops and visited a local school.