Providing healthcare in a developing country wasn’t something Rachael Ovington expected to be doing while studying a Bachelor of Nursing.
But it was an experience she will never forget and will take with her when she seeks employment as a full-time nurse next year.
Rachael is one of almost 50 third-year Griffith nursing students to travel to Laos this year as part of work integrated learning placement within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.
Griffith University was the first university health team to administer healthcare in in this rural district of Laos Laos, commencing work with this community Development Project in 2010.
“Being able to provide healthcare to people that have nothing and no access to health services because they live rurally really made me appreciate the healthcare we have in Australia and made me want to do so much more for them,” Rachael said.
“The community were really excited and happy to see us and so grateful and appreciative that we were there to help.
“This experience helped build my nursing skills in general as you have to do everything manually so your assessment skills need to be strong. It also made me more aware of cultural sensitivities, which I will take with me well into my career.”
Rachael said her group, who were supervised by two Griffith staff members and two volunteer nurses, found many people to be suffering from colds and flus and physical injuries caused from manual labour.
She said they also provided a lot of health education to the children such as oral hygiene and hand washing, as well as teaching correct methods for lifting large objects safely.
“We took a bag of donated clothes to every village we went to, which we fundraised before we left,” she said.
“It was quite cold when we were there and to see some kids walking around with no shoes and in clothes that were too small was heartbreaking.
“We couldn’t do everything but we did the best we could.”
Griffith School of Nursing and Midwifery International Programs Director Hazel Rands said students who travelled to Laos were in a unique position and would be looked upon favourably by future employers.
“This experience is unique because it is recognised as clinical hours by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority and it enables student to be challenged by the extremes of poverty, poor communication and working with limited resources,” she said.
“Griffith seeks to prepare our students to become global citizens and this three-week experience allows them to see another healthcare system, live in a challenging environment, learn about themselves and acknowledge the unique set of skills that they have to offer as health professions upon graduation.”
Rachael is due to graduate at the end of 2016.