Health Sciences

ACU Student Nurses lend a hand in Vila Vanuatu

Students helping to hang new curtains in the birthing suite at Vila Central Hospital

In June 2015, during their recent international short study tour to Port Vila Vanuatu a group of nursing students from the North Sydney campus found a number of ways to contribute back to the communities that supported them during their clinical placement.

Prior to travelling to Vanuatu, students were required to undertake fund-raising activities for much needed resources in Vanuatu. Students carried with them in their luggage about 150kg of equipment for use in Vila Central Hospital and the rural health clinic, Puanangisu, in northern Efate. The students went around to wards delivering the supplies.

This year 200 digital thermometers were provided so that every nurse and midwife at the hospital and every student nurse could carry their own thermometer. In the past, student nurses were allowed to borrow a mercury thermometer from the School of Nursing and it had to be returned at the end of every shift.

Student fund-raising enabled the purchase of fabric and accessories to have new curtains made for the maternity ward. One curtain will replace the torn and worn curtain in the admission room and there will be 4 new curtains in the birthing suite to improve the privacy of birthing mums.

Another donation for Vila Central Hospital is a 42 inch screen to be placed in the outpatient department to display health promotion information to patients and their families as they wait to be seen by a health professional. The maintenance department at the hospital is building a custom-made trolley to enable the screen to be easily and safely moved around to meet patient needs. ACU is very grateful to Fung Kuei for assistance in arranging this donation and for their generous reduction in price to accommodate the available budget.

During their stay, staff and students became aware of a local community development activity – the plan was to build 2 new classrooms, a library and an office for one of the schools just outside Vila that had been affected by the cyclone. The organisers wanted to break a Guinness record with regard to the speed of construction … we were not sure if it was a world record, but they certainly broke the record for the fastest construction in Vanuatu with building starting at 6am one Friday, and the job complete by 5pm Sunday, with classrooms fitted out for use on Monday morning.

Some of the workers let staff and students try their hand at rendering the outside of the building - and it was more difficult than the locals made it look. A number of students were assigned to the kitchen to help with feeding the hundreds of people in attendance and keep the plates turning over (no disposable plates and glasses were used). Whilst the construction and kitchen work continued, other students assisted in the first-aid tent assessing and dressing a range of local people’s wounds. Despite all the activity, students still found time to sit with the local people and learn about their lives, and their experiences during Cyclone Pam.

During their stay in north Efate, students visited one of the local schools where they had the opportunity to participate in school activities including the delivery of short health promotion presentations in make-shift classrooms and engagement in school sporting activities.

Several years ago, ACU established the Selina Heggai Memorial Library in Emua Village. This library was developed to encourage children to read outside of school and with their families. It was named in memory of the Ni-van nurse who helped to establish the home-stay component of the trip more than a decade ago, and who sadly died of breast cancer in 2011.