It was also the experience of a lifetime.
The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has welcomed home the group of nine nursing students from a placement in northern Vietnam.
The trip saw the students travel from hospitals in Hanoi and Mai Chau, to mobile clinics in rural communities.
It was hard-going and nerve-wracking, with more than 870 patients treated, but it had a profound impact on the nurses-in-training.
“I worked with a particular patient who had back pain and on further questioning he reported having shrapnel still in his chest from the war,” nursing student Thomas Skerlj said.
“The gravity of the situation hit me in the context that now I was able to help provide some care to a person that had been through so much.”
It was the first time the placement program had visited the small mountain village of Pu Bin, and the USQ students were faced with serious cases to treat including extreme, high blood pressure and muscle and joint problems.
One week later, the group visited a village where clinics had been run for many years – providing an insight into positive impact on the general health of those treated.
Mr Skerlj said the experience increased his awareness of the importance of education and healthcare.
“We worked closely with Vietnamese practitioners in completing nursing cares, assessing and recommending care plans,” he said.
“It was very valuable in developing communication skills and working with interpreters.
“I also had the opportunity to work as a team leader which was a good way to develop some creative problem solving skills.
“We had an excellent group and there was plenty of support which contributed to a very positive experience.”
Fellow nursing student Kristen Plazina said after four days straight of clinics, a village held a concert to thank the group for its time in the community.
“They treated us with local dances and we treated them to a bit of our culture which included dancing the ‘Nutbush’, singing the national anthem, and a taste of vegemite,” she said.
For information on studying health and community at USQ, visit www.usq.edu.au/health-and-community.
Tom Skerlj at Van Village Clinic in North Vietnam