In my international travels through developing nations I have witnessed devastating healthcare disparity. The abundance of the US healthcare system made me want to use my resources to engage in more of the global healthcare community. But I wanted to participate in a way that would empower my international colleagues and facilitate local ownership.
In April I was provided with an amazing opportunity to travel to Cambodia with the International Nursing Program (INP). Founded by UWMC ICU RN Lia Golden, the program works to partner nurses from UWMC with nurses at Calmette Hospital and Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital, two hospitals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The aim of the program is to use partnerships to implement nursing education and bedside training. The program focuses on an intense education program for a smaller select group of nurses, Local Nurse Champions (LNCs), identified by their management as unit leaders. These nurses attend weekly classes and then participate in bedside precepting with the INP Cambodian coordinator. The intent is that the LNCs will then be empowered to educate their colleagues. Through this opportunity, I participated both in teaching classes to the LNCs and facilitating them precepting their colleagues. At the bedside, I partook in and witnessed the LNCs teaching their staff the topics that the INP nurses had previously taught them.
During my time in Cambodia, I developed a sense of comradery with the LNCs. Through my presence in the classroom and at the bedside, I was welcomed into the ICU RN community. After a week of working together in their ICUs, the LNCs organized a dinner to share their Khmer heritage through food. The nurses made sure to get the night off for the gathering. And they even insisted on paying, stating that they wanted to give us an authentic Khmer food experience. It was such a unique experience. The LNCs were so welcoming and eager to be a part of the learning partnership that the INP provides. In my short two weeks there, I was able to see improvement in nursing care at the bedside and witnessed the LNCs taking leadership rolls in education, in the classroom, and at the bedside.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the INP and to have been able to travel to Cambodia and witness first hand a global partnership in the making. By taking part in precepting the Cambodian nurses, I gained knowledge for my own nursing practice and improved upon my communication skills. I also expanded an even deeper understanding of how resource rich the US medical system is comparatively. I hope to be able to go back to Cambodia to continue my professional development and foster the relationships I made with the LNCs.