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The Ultimate Nursing Adventure

The Ultimate Nursing Adventure

Andrea Pohlkotte /

August 25, 2008

“Get out of classes for a week and get credit for it! Spend a sunny nine days in a five-star hotel with plush interior decorating and just minutes from the beach. Only $45 per night, all-you-can-eat breakfast included, exotic animals, jungles and marvelous tourist attractions thousands of years old — all for discount prices.”

Warning: Do not drink the water, go in the water or eat anything prepared in water, do not walk by yourself on city streets; beware of killer mosquitoes; stay inside to prevent heat stroke, get all 50 recommended vaccinations before departing; and never take hand off of your wallet.

Would you go? Of course!

As I was starting my third quarter of nursing school, I had an opportunity to work in the hospitals of Cambodia. This unexpected learning opportunity would serve as just the right dose of cultural immersion to open my eyes to transcultural nursing and boost my enthusiasm to meet the challenges of an unknown world.

The Adventure Begins

I have always had a love and curiosity for strange places and new experiences. Born to parents with the same desires, I have been afforded numerous opportunities to travel abroad within the last ten years and share in the cultural diversity and beauty of the globe.

Right before winter quarter started, amid the papers, final exams and group projects, I came home and listened to the messages on my machine. Nestled among them were words from my sister that changed my life, “Hey, Andie. Do you want to go to Cambodia? Call me.” Not five minutes later I was planning an attack strategy to convince my professors for the impending quarter that this opportunity was a must. My fingers couldn’t type fast enough to send e-mails to the assistant dean and upcoming professors to ask permission to take midterms early, make up clinicals, and turn in papers late. All attempts proved successful.

However, in order to make any trip as rewarding and thought-provoking as possible, one must get information and facts about the destination before leaving. First stop, the weather channel. “Ninety-five degrees and 100 percent humidity at 2 a.m. in February.”

After continued research and information from my course coordinator, I learned of the real history behind Cambodia and the sadness that the empire had incurred in only the last 25 years and the devastating state that the country’s health care system was now in.

Once a prosperous and beautifully sculpted harvesting society, Cambodia is now barely able to survive after the fall of the empire to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Cambodia as a whole has had to strive against impossible odds. Currently the life expectancy is only 53 and the infant mortality rate is an astonishing 103 per 1,000 live births. Only 64 percent of the population has access to safe water and there is only one doctor per 9,523 people (Ministry of Health, 1998). These facts only made my drive for cultural competence that much greater and I felt the need to go out and conquer the world of cross-cultural nursing.

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