My paediatric nursing placement was better than I could have imagined!
When I originally picked Cambodia as my destination, I knew little about its vast history and deep culture.
However, my time in the hospital and travelling around the country opened my eyes.
I spent six weeks in a national paediatric hospital, splitting my time between neonatal intensive care, A&E, infectious diseases and theatres.
I was astounded to see the difference in healthcare provision when comparing it to the UK. More astounding was the high level of care local staff provided with so few resources.
My communication skills really developed on this placement. There was a bit of a language barrier, so I ensured my non-verbal communication was up to scratch — it was the most effective way for me to communicate with Cambodian patients and their families.
Nursing practice was very different from what we’re used to in the UK. The role of the nurse didn’t involve personal care as this was mostly left to the patients’ families.
The most memorable case I observed was a malnourished blind baby who had been abandoned by his mum on the hospital steps. I was told that this was because, in Cambodia, blindness in a newborn was a sign of being possessed by an evil spirit.
Another barrier to providing care was the lack of available resources. Even when certain items were available, local staff didn’t always use them in the most effective way.
For example, gloves were used as tourniquets rather than actually wearing them during tasks to prevent infection.
There was a surprising lack of hand soap and very few sinks to wash our hands in. This was confronting, especially as this was Cambodia's main paediatric hospital.
We spent weekends travelling around Cambodia with other healthcare students we lived in the Work the World house with.
We visited Angkor Wat, some temples in Siem Reap, trekked through the jungles to see elephants in Mondulkiri, travelled to the paradise islands of Koh Rong, and even caught a plane to Bangkok in Thailand!
My housemates and I quickly became like family. It was amazing to go on these amazing journeys with them!
If you are reading this and considering picking Phnom Penh, stop hesitating! I wouldn’t change a thing about my placement — it was an amazing experience, and I will never forget it.