Changing Lives Through Nursing

It's not often that nursing students go overseas, where they set up makeshift clinics with a multidisciplinary Nepalese health team and triage 250 patients in a day.

But eight intrepid final year Master of Nursing Science students from the University of Melbourne did just that. Over a two week period, they worked in remote villages in Nepal and provided training and basic health care to poor and vulnerable communities.

This frontline support is life changing says Kerrie Arthur, Director of Interdisciplinary Clinical Education and Professional Experience Placement Coordinator at the Department of Nursing.

“The first time that the Master of Nursing Science course sent students to Jinglaow was in 2013. The children living in the mountains were malnourished, and many had ear, nose and throat infections and horrific injuries from falls and farming accidents. Very young women were also heavily pregnant with their third or fourth babies, and many had lost children due to complications during childbirth or early childhood diseases,” Kerrie Arthur says.

“The Master of Nursing Science students have since taught the community about women’s health, hygiene and the importance of eating well while breastfeeding. They also helped community leaders with sustainable farming and donated money for grain, goats, chicken and immunisations.

“As a result of this support, the community now farms crops for families and livestock. There is also a newly built school and women are selling handmade crafts, with sales contributing to a community health fund for emergencies.”

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Teaching children hand hygiene at Manihari, Nepal. Image: Nikola Solomon.

In addition to hands-on experience in acute and community nursing, the Master of Nursing Science students also visit families in their homes and provide health education.

“I gained more empathy for patients from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and now apply this in my current workplace as a paediatric nurse,” says Nikola Solomon, who volunteered in Nepal in 2014.

“I was also amazed by how open the Nepalese were in welcoming our group. We were invited into homes, schools, hospitals, joined in local traditions and accepted as brothers and sisters of their families.

“We were touched by their heartfelt gratitude and felt privileged to be providing health care to people who had previously been neglected.”

For more information about the international placement nursing program, please email Kerrie Arthur at kerrie.arthur@unimelb.edu.au.

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Vicki Burkitt