Care without borders

Female physician focusing on her work

Nurse transforms wound care in Vietnam by sharing her skills and training providers

When Ann Nguyen was studying for her MSN degree in 2011, she didn’t plan on revolutionizing wound care in her native country. But following an introduction to Dr. Gregory Crow and her subsequent involvement with the Vietnam Nurse Project (an academic-service partnership between the University of San Francisco School of Nursing & Health Professions and healthcare providers in that country) that’s exactly what happened.

Nguyen, who is clinical nurse manager of the Wound Care Center at Regional Medical Center of San Jose, went to Vietnam in 2011 and worked mostly with neonatal departments. She soon realized there was a huge need for wound care, and that time was of the essence in order to save lives.

“Every single place we went, we’d see patients with wounds and staff that didn’t have the information they needed to provide better care for those patients,” says Nguyen, who grew up in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1998. “When I came back to the United States, I began working with Regional’s staff at our Wound Care Center on how to help them.”

Those early efforts led to multiple trips to Vietnam to work with nurses and providers on the basics of wound care, as well as inviting Vietnamese physicians to Regional Medical Center to learn about their wound-care program which includes a consult panel of five physician specialists. By 2015, a wound care association was developing within the Vietnamese healthcare system, complete with recommended guidelines, processes and procedures.

And last fall, Nguyen was invited to address the first Vietnam National Institute of Burns congress meeting, the first nurse to be so recognized at a high-level, national medical event in Vietnam. Soon after, she addressed the Vietnam Nurses Association, both milestones in terms of wound-care and nursing visibility. She has been invited back in 2016, and also made an executive member of the congress.

“Her work has been monumental, and will have an impact for decades in Vietnam,” says Dr. Crow, who established the Vietnam Nurse Project in 2007.

Increasing nurses’ visibility

As nurses become better educated, not just on wound care but in general, they will play a more prominent role in Vietnamese healthcare. That’s a seismic shift for that country, Dr. Crow says.

“Very recently, nurses were still referred to as servants, and that was due in part to the fact they didn’t have a lot to offer,” he says. “As we have helped with curriculum and training, and Ann has worked with them, that is changing. We’ve made videos, she’s done demonstrations, and it’s all working toward building a sustainable wound care program, but also growing the stature of nursing in Vietnam.”

In the midst of it all, however, Nguyen has also done what all great nurses do — provide excellent patient care.

“Part of our work with the project has been to provide caretakers with iPads, so they can take a photo of wounds and send them to me so I can arrange a consultation with Ann or another provider in the United States,” Dr. Crow says. “A gentleman was suffering from necrotizing fasciitis, the skin-eating disease. Ann’s consult literally saved his life — he was missing skin down his side and arms when she got involved, and three months later he was sitting up and reading the newspaper. Ann’s work helps people here, and people in an entire other country. I know that man was one of many people who are grateful to have Ann Nguyen on the other end of the line.” 

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