Vo Thi: I have been working there for four and a half years already, as trainer for nurses specialised in caring for patients suffering from lesions of the spinal column. I did my nursing studies at Sint-Niklaas. I worked in the Internal Illness service at Temse. After a specialised training at the University Hospital of Ghent, I began to work for Handicap International.
Vo Thi: Our spinal cord unit is the only one in Vietnam which is technically capable of giving treatment to people suffering from lesions of the spinal cord (most frequently following road or work accidents). This goes from surgical operations to reintegration, combining medical, social and psychological aspects.
The training team from Handicap International has thus completed its task: from now on, Vietnamese specialists in the spinal cord unit are working on the decentralisation of their knowledge towards three provincial services, where 10-bed spinal cord units have been constructed and equipped. The personnel, doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and social workers come regularly to Hô Chi Minh City for theoretical and practical training sessions.
Vo Thi: It’s very difficult. Indeed, in Vietnam, nurses are not authorised to take the initiative, nor to act in an autonomous fashion. In Belgium, on the contrary, nurses have a certain decision-making authority. I try to implicate the doctors, but it is very difficult, and I have more success with doctors coming from abroad, who are less attached to the hierarchy.
Vo Thi: After the first year, nurses understand better what it is all about and why it is important to take initiatives with this type of patient, who, otherwise, have no opportunities for revalidation in Vietnam. Often, here, patients suffering from lesions in the spinal cord die not because of their injuries, but because of complications which come afterwards. Learning to do certain movements correctly is very important for them. Furthermore, I notice that, in the provinces where they work, the chief nurses I have trained encounter the same resistance there on the part of other nurses that they experienced themselves at the beginning.
Vo Thi: Indeed. In this way, we can reach a lot more people and improve the quality of the reception of road victims or others suffering from spinal lesions. The training gives them a really useful savoir-faire.
Vo Thi: There’s a lot of technical baggage, but I also teach them more general approaches, such as material relevant to patients’ private lives, to team working, and to family education. All of these things help to make the lives of the both patient and nurse more agreeable.
Vo Thi: Certainly. It’s easier in Belgium, but the needs are so much greater in Vietnam. But for the moment, there are no colleagues to take over when I leave on holiday...