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

The group of 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,” Sally 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. 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 of 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. I can’t wait to go back some day.”

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