Empowering Laotian communities through positive health practices

Notre Dame student Melanie Manansala says the Laos immersion experience changed her perspective on nursing as a career

Notre Dame Nursing students gather with Laotian children who are keen to showcase their new toothbrushes

13 October 2016

Notre Dame students are contributing to positive and sustainable health care improvements in Laos though a rewarding practical immersion delivered by the University’s School of Nursing & Midwifery, and supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan.

Putting their theoretical experience into practice, 10 second-year Nursing students from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle Campus spent two weeks working closely with the Laos Health Care Service to provide patient assessment, case management and education in some of the most disadvantaged Laotian communities.

As part of the program, students also distributed more than 1000 toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, as well as 200 Days for Girls packs – a simple toolkit that includes sustainable feminine hygiene solutions.

“These kits allowed us to have a discussion about hygiene solutions to promote health and dignity for young women in developing countries. Additionally, these kits allow girls to stay in school and further their education, which in turn will contribute to the wellbeing of the community,” Nursing student, Lauren Hickford, said.

“I felt that the Laos immersion would provide an insight into the nature of international nursing, improve my clinical skills and widen my perspective of global health care. I can say with confidence that each of these goals were manifested in my experience.”

Melanie Manansala said the experience changed her perspective on nursing as a career and heightened her confidence to make a difference through the profession once graduating from Notre Dame.

“Due to the limited resources in Laos, I was amazed at the fundamental simplicity of some of the effective solutions we achieved for complex problems. Who knew a splint for a fractured arm could be formed out of a plastic water bottle, tape and scraps of fabric?” Melanie said.

“Partaking in an experience such as this emphasised the importance of lateral thinking in nursing practice – skills that I hope were able to benefit the communities within which we worked.”

Dr Kylie Russell, Postgraduate Coordinator in the School of Nursing & Midwifery, said the School would continue to make this immersion program available for students, furthering its commitment of providing quality practical learning opportunities for all students.

“Nursing education encourages students to appreciate the impact of society and culture on the health and wellbeing of individuals and groups. Providing opportunities for students to practice in health services different to those experienced in Australia opens the doors to a future career in international nursing and the challenges and rewards that come with the profession,” Dr Russell said.

“The School of Nursing & Midwifery is committed to supporting the Days for Girls project with more packs going to Tanzania in November and future immersions in 2017. Students will continue to fundraise throughout the year for the purchase of supplies to assist our local Perth group, in addition to generic health supplies.”

To get involved in this project, please contact Notre Dame’s School of Nursing & Midwifery on 9433 0223.
For more information about the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan visit www.dfat.gov.au/new-colombo-plan
For more information about the Days for Girls group visit www.daysforgirls.org/australia.

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093; leigh.dawson@nd.edu.au