I recently returned from a two-week nursing placement in Hue, Vietnam. Vietnam was somewhere I had always wanted to travel and therefore the opportunity to combine this with a placement was appealing.
When arriving in Vietnam I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the country and the kindness of the local Vietnamese people. I was placed in two different hospitals, one being a University Teaching Hospital, both helped diversify my experience of the local healthcare service.
The hospitals are a true depiction of an under-resourced healthcare service, starkly different from the Australian system I am familiar with. Patient accommodation, the role of family in patient care, rationing of medications, and wound care are a few key practices that most significantly juxtaposed the Australian healthcare system.
It is worth highlighting the wound care challenges the Vietnamese people faced, deeply rooted in a lack of finances and accessibility. This was one of the most confronting situations I saw, evidently leading to poor patient outcomes that would otherwise be avoidable in countries with greater resources
Before I travelled, I had some idea of the kind of environment I would be getting experience in. But, I must admit that I was surprised by the high level of clinical knowledge and skill that the local nursing and medical staff demonstrated.
During my placement, I learned primarily through observation and through drawing links between social determinants of health and patient outcomes. Supervisors very generously actively engaged us, explained procedures, and provided opportunities to use our existing skills. They also displayed a keen interest in learning about the Australian system.
I feel that the most valuable learning opportunities were those where I was present as an observer, being able to immerse myself in the local culture and view situations through the lens of empathy. Being understanding of the culture helped me appreciate decision-making and the rationale behind local practices.
Most memorably, I spent many hours in the operating theatre watching and participating in extremely complex cardiac surgeries, an opportunity I would not have been afforded as a student back home.
I learnt quickly how resourceful the local staff had to be. This limitation seemed to have enhanced their on-the-spot critical thinking and their ability to adapt to challenging clinical situations efficiently, creatively and calmly. This is a skill I hope to carry through into my own practice.
Moreover, we had the opportunity to work alongside local medical students which increased patient involvement care through breaking down language barriers as well as a great networking opportunity.
Beyond placement the Work the World house served as a built-in friendship group and vital support system, enhancing the entire experience. Our weekends were packed full of sightseeing including locally in Hue and further afield Hoi An and Hanoi.
Being able to experience a healthcare system so different from the Western World was both humbling and motivating. I would highly recommend a Work the World placement to anyone. There is a lot to gain from it on both a professional and personal level in a highly supportive environment. It will be one of the best experiences of your life. My time spent in Hue, Vietnam has positively shaped the way I practice as a nurse.