There are three types of people that you encounter as a traveler: missionaries, mercenaries, and misfits. I’m not sure where nurses fall in this spectrum. For a good portion of this month I have had the honor of participating in a program that pairs advanced practice nursing students with bachelor level Thai nursing students through a collaboration between the
|Sometimes travel is a leap of faith.|
The SUT students are completing a community health course, which entails completing a through assessment of the health status and history of nearly every individual, family, and village serviced by the district clinic. They are doing a proper assessment; they are placed in a foreign community and spending nearly six weeks living and working in these communities. Additionally they have been taking on the role of medical interpreter as we conduct physical and psychosocial assessments in both clinical and home settings.
Although we are students ourselves we have been assigned the role of expert clinician, a role that we have been prepared for. Our program has taught not only the importance of clinical assessment skills, but also the importance of considering our patients as people. We look at their needs and desires, assets and barriers to health care. We are trained not to only diagnose and treat illness, but also to promote health and help in eliminating the barriers to health. We have been gifted a skill set that transcends borders and language barriers.
|Other times it is PowerPoint longing for coffee in a bag, as our Thai Sisters demonstrate.|
Our Thai brothers and sisters as well as the communities we served have welcomed us graciously. Huay Tai, a small village about 45 minutes south of Nakhon Ratchasima, (or Korat) has been our base of operations. We’ll call it Village 11, as there are 15 villages that are served by the clinic… and I usually spell and pronounce the names incorrectly, and confuse them with the province, district and each other. Village 11 is amazing. The health problems that we encountered are pretty standard, the same kinds of illnesses that you’d see in any clinic or home visit the world over, but they have just been managed a bit differently. Of course there are a couple of region specific problems that we don’t really come across in the States – dengue fever, typhoid fever, betel nut related complications, and healthy food choices in Buddhist monks, to list a few.
The team dedicated to Village 11 consisted of three U of M NP students, whose specialties include adult/gerontology primary care, pediatrics, midwifery, occupational health, and international health (we like school, what can I say?) and seven Thai students, who are finishing their BSN degrees. Like all teams that matter it took awhile for everyone to work well together but in the end we were a solid team that worked well together in increasing our own knowledge as well as assessing and assisting our community. A community that embraced us from the beginning; I’ve lost count of the number of new grandmothers that have claimed us as their own.
|I told you it was a left at the Mango tree next to the chicken, not the duck.|
As our time in Thailand comes to an end I feel like I’m grieving. The community threw us a party, complete with locally sourced food.
|Noodles first, we'll address that burn after lunch.|
|...and that is how the Thai Family Functioning Scale was validated.|
I’m sad to leave but the community is in good hands. Nursing is hard to define, just sit through one of our theory courses and you’ll understand, or actually not understand. We enter the profession for various personal reasons (we hate the ‘Why did you become a nurse?’ question) and soon realize that it’s a hard job that’s rewarding spiritually, and every once in a while financially. Nursing takes us places if we are willing to step through the doors that it opens. So yes the next time you are out in the world and trying to decide if that quirky person with the dark sense of humor is a missionary, mercenary, or a misfit… maybe they are all three because they just might be a nurse.