Monday, June 7, 2010

Project HOPE Nurses Sharing Educational Experiences In Vietnam

A nurse is a nurse is a nurse. Before you stop at this sentence please continue to read. Historically this is a phrase that has been used for decades regarding nurses in a variety of settings. On June 3 and 4, ten members of the Project HOPE team had the honor to consider this statement in another light aboard the USNS Mercy. The Vietnam PEPFAR Team - Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief - whose primary goal is to improve access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment in low-resource settings was on the Mercy this week.

The PEPFAR team was comprised of Sr. Col. Dr. Do Van Binh, Head of the Nursing Department, Military Medical Academy in Hanoi, Captain Dr. Nguyen Quang Chien , a labotorian officer in the Blood Transfusion and Hematology Dept at the Military Hospital 103 in Hanoi, LTC Le Vi Phuong, the Head Nurse of Military Hospital 175 in Ho Chi Minh City, LTC Dr. Nguyen Van Vinh, the team leader of Medical Preventive Team of Military Region 9 in Cantho, and Col Dr. Huynh Duc Hien, the Deputy Chief of the Lab Dept at Military Hospital in Danang. They were accompanied by Dr Phung Mai, the Care and Treatment Program Officer for the Department of Defense (DoD) PEPFAR in Vietnam and Dr Nguyen Cuong , the Prevention Program Officer for the DoD PEPFAR in Vietnam. Dr Mai and Dr Cuong served as our linguists during this interaction. Members of the Project HOPE nurses panel were faculty at University of San Diego and Santa Rosa Junior College School of Nursing, and a registered nurse with a legal background who shared insights into the U.S. nursing educational system. We had the rare opportunity to speak and share ideas with the above Vietnamese representatives of major educational and hospital systems.

We sat in the bottommost level of the USNS Mercy, as the ship rocked gently back and forth. We spoke mainly to each other through two very gifted linguists. Both of these facts seemed to make this a very uncommon situation for all of us. We shared what were considered the basic competencies all programs of nursing should address. As a group we spoke of concerns for the need to identify and then maintain standards of basic nursing care. To a person those essential components of critical thinking in a clinical setting, professional ethics, patient safety and infection control were considered a baseline of all educational programs for nurses. The U.S. design of establishing standardization of testing and licensure was shared as well. Our discussions became energized as we realized the commonality of our goals and concerns. It was readily apparent that we had traveled halfway around the world to find our commonalities outweighed our differences. Wherever we are and whatever language we speak, the language of nursing remains the same.

By Project HOPE volunteer nurse Faye Pyles, who is serving as HOPE's Chief Nursing Officer and Operations Officer aboard the USNS Mercy.

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