Many young Australians head to Vietnam for fun, sun, and good food, but a group of nursing students from VU's St Albans Campus have seen another side of the country.
As part of their Diploma of Nursing program, 10 students went to Vietnam in September on a two-week study tour, volunteering at Hanoi's National Paediatric Hospital, the Hoa Bihn Peace Village, (an orphanage for disabled victims of Agent Orange) and at Blue Dragon, an organisation that helps rescue trafficked children.
Coordinator and tour leader Dr Susanne Kristy said the students were challenged physically, academically and emotionally in a supported environment during their tour.
"My experience on previous study tours has been that students improve significantly in their ability to work in culturally diverse and challenging environments," she says. "For many, this is a life-changing event."
Before they left, the students collected donations of hospital equipment including stethoscopes, torches, scissors and thermometers, as well as toys from op shops that Kristy personally cleaned and repaired.
At the National Paediatric Hospital, the group's first stop, the students worked in four areas: neonatal intensive care, neonatal surgery, oncology, and a day program for children with autism.
"It was very hot in the hospital, and sweat just ran down our backs," says student Ashleigh Davies. "It's really sad because the parents are often taking their very sick babies home to die."
The tour also reflected a Victoria University goal to train nurses for employment in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Kristy says.
"On their return, if the students go on to work as nurses in western Melbourne, they will benefit from their Vietnam experience of caring for people from different religious and cultural backgrounds."
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."
The group's study tour is part of a growing number of overseas experiences Victoria University offers its vocational education students. In the past few years, students in areas such as nursing, engineering, children's services and hair and make-up services have completed study tours abroad, with funding support from the federal government.
Victoria University's Diploma of Nursing provides students with qualifications as a Division 2 nurse, able to work in a variety of fields from public or private hospitals to private nursing homes or community care facilities. Graduates receive credit in VU's Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Midwifery after completing their diploma.