Ipswich Hospital Assistant in Nursing Courtney Smith
has recently returned from a placement in Laos.

“We would travel to the furthest villages up the mountain,” Ms Smith said.

“People there are a two day walk for the nearest hospital or at least a 5 hour bike ride.

“Even then, if they can’t afford to pay, they cannot get treatment.”

It was no surprise that when the Australian medical students come through on the annual three week Griffith University student volunteer program, the local residents line up for hours. 

“It’s the only healthcare they receive,” Ms Smith said.

“I assisted the local healthcare workers with patient assessments, diagnosed and made recommendations as well as doing health education workshops.

“We were in farming areas where they do a lot of heavy lifting.

“There was a lot of muscle pain and body aches. So we spent time educating them how to lift correctly, not to lift too much at once and explain not to twist while lifting and to bend their knees.

“We did lesson for the children in correct hand washing. When to wash their hands and why. We also gave out heaps of toothbrushes and taught them about that.”

Ms Smith saw some interesting cases include a young girl, 11, who had paralysis all down her left side and had done so since she was seven. She also treated a three year old boy who had undescended testis. In both of these cases they were not able to be resolved without a trip to the hospital.

“We wrote their names down and I’m waiting to hear how it turned out,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith started in healthcare at Ipswich when she started a school based trainee mentoring program when she was just 15.

Now 20, Ms Smith is currently completing her nursing degree while working as an Assistant in Nursing at the Ipswich Hospital.

“I didn’t know for sure I wanted to be a nurse when I started my training. It was a little spark back then, but it didn’t take long and I really fell in love with nursing and caring for people,” Ms Smith said.

“My goal now is to be a neo natal nurse. I love babies.”

Ms Smith is back in Ipswich now reflecting on her time in Laos. It has changed the way she sees the world and inspired her to be the best nurse she can be.

But most days her mind wonders back to Laos.

“I’d left feeling a little like I put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – you really want to know you’re doing everything you possibly can,” Ms Smith said.

“I will be an advocate for it until I die.”

Read about local people in Ipswich First