Students help improve health of Javanese villagers | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Students help improve health of Javanese villagers

In five remote villages in Java, local women are conducting vital health checks using equipment provided by USC Nursing Science students and the Gympie community.

The driving force behind the medical donations – USC Gympie students Emma Kendall, Antonija Monckton, Erin Stewart and sisters Laura and Amanda Keldoulis – spent three weeks delivering care to rural communities in central Java’s Dlingo district.

They were among 20 students from Gympie, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Coast selected to take part in USC’s first accredited international nursing placement, under the supervision of Senior Lecturer in Nursing Dr Debbie Massey and Lecturer in Nursing Matt Mason.

Emma Kendall said before heading to Indonesia at the end of last year, the students raised almost $1,500 to take with them to buy medical equipment and consumables.

“We knew lack of health care was a real issue for these rural communities, however we did not realise the extent until we were on the ground conducting health assessment clinics,” Emma said.

“It was an eye-opening experience which challenged us to be innovative during the clinical placement,” the third-year Midwifery and Nursing Science student said.

“We witnessed conditions such as extremely high blood pressure and stroke that could have been prevented with regular access to health care, education and medication.”

Working with the local health care providers, they identified medical supplies that could provide short-term benefit to the villagers well after the placement ended.

“We bought 13 stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and blood glucose monitors and taught the women in the village known as the 'mothers' how to monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels so they could continue to offer health checks on a regular basis,” she said.

Surprised to find that the communities also lacked basic supplies such as disposable gloves and medical hand sanitiser, they bought these too, along with toothpaste and toothbrushes for local school children.

“With the help of our fabulous interpreters, we were able to visit schools and talk about the importance of good oral health and hand hygiene practices,” Emma said.

“The Gympie community was instrumental in purchasing these much-needed supplies and the healthcare workers in these villages were grateful for the generosity of our city.”

Emma said the placement provided excellent clinical learning and a culturally rich experience that involved learning some of the local language and customs.

“This included the custom of not wearing shoes inside, so to show our respect we had to go against our usual practice of enclosed nursing shoes for most clinics,” she said.

“The people of Java left a real impression on us. Although many of them did not have much, the people we helped in the health clinics and home visits were so hospitable and generous.”

The placement was a collaboration between USC, Antipodeans Abroad and Java’s Karima Health Care Community, with most students funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program.

USC plans to continue the program, with a second group of students to take part in placements in Java later this year.

— Clare McKay 

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