Nursing academic experiences healthcare in Cambodia

Cambodia nursing trip 1

A Nursing lecturer from the University of South Wales has described a hospital in Cambodia as “like nothing she had ever experienced before”.

Paula Hopes, (pictured above, far right) Senior Lecturer in Learning Disability Nursing, travelled to the Southeast Asian country in July to experience its healthcare system first hand.

Along with a former colleague from her time at Teesside University, and a group of 17 student nurses from three fields of practice (Child, Adult and Learning Disability Nursing), Paula spent two weeks at Battambang Referral Hospital with the charity Transform Healthcare Cambodia.

The team worked alongside doctors and nurses at the hospital, donating equipment and resources, sharing best practice and delivering teaching sessions, via interpreters to staff and nursing students.

Having spent a long time working in the community and later in academia, Paula initially felt out of her comfort zone working in Battambang.

Paula said: “Straight away I could see stark differences from what we take for granted in this country. We had a tour of the hospital and it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.

Cambodia nursing trip 2 “The hospital was built in a colonial style, mostly on one level, made up of lots of small buildings and outdoor areas or landings were utilised on some wards.

“Another big difference is that family members are far more present in every aspect of the patient’s care. While the doctors and nurses carry out medical procedures, it’s the family who see to the aftercare, meeting hygiene needs, toileting, feeding etc.

"In the Cambodian culture, respect for the elders of the family and learning from their experience is hugely important.”

The group also spent time at the local nursing training school to hear how education is delivered in Battambang Province, and discuss how it differs to the UK curriculum. This led to an opportunity for a home visit to a child with Autism, seeing the provision that the family pay for.

“We realised that Learning Disability Nursing was an unknown concept; the four fields of nursing do not exist in Cambodia,” added Paula.

“Students are not trained in caring for patients with learning disabilities, and there isn’t any special education provision for children with additional needs.”

A group of qualified staff will be travelling out from Transform Healthcare Cambodia in November with a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) and CYPs (Children and Young People’s services) focus.

Paula is now hoping to take a group of Nursing students from the University of South Wales to Cambodia next summer.

As module leader for the MSc Professional Practice course, many of her students come to USW from all over the world, and she is keen to learn more about what international students bring to the classroom, having experienced healthcare systems across different continents.

She said: “One of the nurses said something that’ll stick in my mind for a long time to come – ‘We may not have the best resources or equipment, but we have our eyes, we have our hands and we have our ears, and that’s what we need for a thorough assessment of a patient’.

“That’s the essence of nursing – using our ability to understand what the patient is going through.”