USD Nursing Students International Mission to Vietnam

Professor and students
L-R: Prof. Molly McAmis, Katie Lam, Dana Yu, Anne Uyen, Dr. Lyn Puhek

USD nursing students Katie Lam, Anne Uyen, Tran-Ho, Dana Yu, and professors Molly McAmis and Dr. Lyn Puhek were recently in Vietnam on a humanitarian mission with the International Medical Relief (IMR) organization. The students got an up-close and personal look at rural, third-world healthcare.

Their first stop was in Saigon for a team meeting and clinic preparation before heading into a small, rural community five hours away. They say they spent several days in the neighborhood auditorium where they had set up the clinic.

Student Clinic“The windows, with a scenic view overlooking the foggy mountains, were covered with spider webs and bees. We worked with an amazing, well-rounded team of nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, doctors, EMTs, dentists, and Vietnamese translators. We took vital signs, triaged patients, performed well-baby checks, ran lab tests, and provided health-related community education, all with the help of translators.”

They provided care to 700 patients who traveled long distances and arrived in the early morning hours for an opportunity to receive that care and a bag of food for their family.

After three days in the mountain town, the team headed for another rural area southwest of Da Nang. Residents there were waiting patiently under plastic tents for the team to arrive.

DaNang ClinicThis facility had more to offer than the previous one; private rooms and beds enhanced the team’s ability to assess and provide comfort for their patients. But there was one special patient, a man who was injured serving in the Vietnam War. The team found him a brand new wheelchair.

Students and disabled man“This man has been disabled for over 40 years after losing his left leg due to a bomb and enduring a chronic deformity to his right leg. This patient warmed our hearts because despite his situation, he kept smiling and thanking everyone for providing care to the townspeople.”

Child in wheelchairWhile working in triage area, USD nursing student Anne Uyen noticed an elderly woman carrying a man on her back. When Anne asked the woman why they came to the clinic, the woman responded in Vietnamese saying, “My son has been like this all of his life, and I was hoping you can find a cure for him.” Unfortunately, the providers could not cure him, but one of the IMR volunteers bought the young man a new, double tread, off-roading wheelchair, complete with security straps.

95 year old womanAnother patient, a 95-year-old woman, hitchhiked to the clinic. She told providers that she lives alone in poverty because she sends all of her money to her daughter-in-law who is undergoing cancer treatment. The providers were so touched they took up a collection for the patient, raising a little over 2 million dong, which is almost $100.

Removing boots at the end of the dayAt the end of the day, Professor McAmis set out to find someone who needed boots. Her boots. A community liaison suggested she give the boots to one of a rice farmer who works in the knee-deep water of the rice fields. They found an older man wearing worn out boots, held together by rubber bands and presented him with the new boots. The man was so grateful he proclaimed Professor McAmis as his “American daughter.”

Students standing by a Vietnam signAfter working in the clinics, the students had the opportunity to visit Da Nang’s hospital.

“We learned that ICU nurses have a one nurse for every six patients with only a social worker as an assistant. Patients typically wait as much as 20 hours in the Emergency Department.”

The students are back home now, but they say they will never forget the lessons learned in Vietnam.

“We came home exhausted but inspired, with our eyes and hearts opened after our many experiences. Though we may leave only a small footprint in Vietnam, we step forward with a newfound confidence and passion to become that nurse leader who can move a team, initiate change, and make a difference in the world.”