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Students swap Victoria for Vietnam

A group of nursing students from Victoria University’s St Albans Campus travelled to Vietnam, where they spent two weeks volunteering in some of the most disadvantaged hospitals and orphanages in the country.

The 10 students volunteered at Hanoi’s National Hospital of Paediatrics and at Blue Dragon, an organisation that helps rescue trafficked children. They also visited a rural hospital in Sapa, where ethnic minority patients are nursed in appalling conditions due to poverty.

Coordinator and tour leader Dr Susanne Kristy said the students were challenged physically, academically and emotionally in a supported environment during their tour.

“For many, this is a life-changing event,” Kristy said.

At the Hospital of Paediatrics the students worked in four areas: neonatal intensive care, neonatal surgery, oncology and on a day program for children with autism.

Student Ashleigh Davies, pictured, is seen handing out one of 80 soft toys donated by the group to children in the oncology and haematology wards.

“It was very hot in the hospital, and sweat just ran down our backs,” she said. “It’s really sad because the parents are often taking their sick babies home to die.”

The tour reflected a Victoria University goal to train nurses for employment in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

“On their return, if the students go on to work as nurses in western Melbourne, they will benefit from their Vietnam experience if they are caring for people from different religious and cultural backgrounds,” Kristy said.

Student Kellie McWilliam said seeing a health system in a developing country made her appreciate how lucky she is to live in Australia. “I realise we take so much for granted in Australia. I will definitely be looking to use my skills to volunteer overseas again.”

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