October 18, 2016
Nursing students take part in a global clinical internship in Cairns
More than 1,500 miles from Sydney, the patients of Cairns Hinterland Tertiary Care Hospital include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, making the Queensland community an ideal setting for learning the importance of cultural competency in health care.
With some patients walking around the hospital with no shoes, University of Delaware nursing students quickly realized they were in a very different medical environment than back home.
“The biggest difference was probably how they care for their patients; everything is much more laid back,” said junior Shannon Lyons. “The patients monitor their own insulin and vitals. The goal is to ensure that patients are independent when they return home.”
Amy Johnson, professor in the School of Nursing, gave Lyons and 10 other nursing students the summer opportunity to work alongside Australian hospital nurses. The internship counted for 80 hours of clinical experience.
Students were placed in different wards and given the option to choose their specialty field. Lyons assisted with bone resettings and castings.
The students were able to complete a wide range of health-related tasks, outside of medications. Many patients came in with arm or leg fractures, but they were rarely operated on.
“A local nurse told me these would probably be considered surgical breaks in America (fractures that warrant surgery), but because of the tropical environment, the risk of infection is too high,” Lyons said. “Hospitals rarely perform surgeries.”
Sometimes, patients would leave the hospital for a walk — an uncommon sight in the U.S.
“We would be walking to work and see our patients wheeling themselves down the beach in their gowns,” Lyons said.
The hospital’s reasoning is that being confined in a building is bad for emotional health, which could very well worsen patients’ conditions.
Despite the significant differences, Lyons found herself enamored by the indigenous patients, and their dedication to their homeland. “Everyone is so incredibly proud to live in Australia.”
After working in the hospital until 3 p.m. every weekday, the nursing students had the opportunity to explore Australia. In their free time, the Blue Hens hiked and went scuba diving with sea creatures from barracudas to sharks.
“It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my whole life. All of the locals are so true to their traditions; I loved hearing about the way they lived,” Lyons said.