Goodwill and generous hospitality by the hosts were the hallmark of a 'life changing' three-week study tour to China by paramedic students from Charles Sturt University (CSU) earlier this year.
"The trip was an amazing experience for us to learn about paramedic practice and health care in China, and the tour schedule was packed with activities," Mr Acker said. "In addition, we were the recipients of incredible Chinese hospitality, generosity, and warmth."
CSU paramedic students Mr Nigel Durbridge and Ms Sarah Marsden uniformly praised the study tour to China.
"I would highly recommend this trip to any student pursuing a career in the medical industry, and I am extremely grateful to CSU Global, staff and lecturers who made this incredible trip and opportunity possible," Ms Marsden said.
"A CSU Global trip like this is truly life changing and I would highly recommend it for any future students or staff members," Mr Marsden said.
Week one – sightseeing and 'amazing hosts'
After sight-seeing in Beijing the CSU study tour group boarded a 250 kilometre per hour bullet train to Jilin in north-east China where they stayed at the Friendship Hotel, the international student dormitory at Beihua University. It hosts 650 on-campus international students from 65 countries including from India, Pakistan, and Russia, as well as African and Arab students.
Beihua University has more than 1 000 students in the nursing course on this campus. The Australians were welcomed by the Dean of Nursing, then toured the campus where they observed nursing classes and clinical assessments, and spent time in the laboratories. They undertook three 'Chinese cultural workshops' from the nursing teachers and the nursing students to learn about traditions and customs, festivals and special events, music, art, dancing, tai chi, food, geography, and even had a lesson in how to make Chinese dumplings.
"In addition to their regular four-year undergraduate course, they offer an 'English nursing course' which adds one year to the degree," Mr Acker said. "These 'English nursing' students became our best friends in China. They spent most days with us, having volunteered to be our hosts and take on the role of our tour guides, cultural mentors, and interpreters, wanting only in return to speak English with us. They were truly amazing hosts who took care of all of our needs."
Visit to ambulance service in Jilin
After a lecture at the hospital about the emergency medical services in the Jilin Province, the group visited the administrative offices of the Jilin 120 Emergency Medical Centre (the ambulance service phone number is 120).
The area around the city of Jilin has approximately six million people served by seven ambulance stations and approximately 20 ambulances. Despite this large population, the ambulance call volume is relatively low at approximately 80 calls per day. In comparison, NSW has a population of 7.25 million people and the state ambulance service responds to 3 340 calls per day.
"The crew for ambulances in Jilin is one ambulance nurse, one ambulance doctor, one driver and two stretcher carriers," Mr Acker said. "It is amazing that they can fit five staff, a patient, and a family member in a small van."
Week two – large-scale health care, and honoured guests
The second week saw the start of hospital seminars for the CSU group at the Affiliated Hospital of Beihua University. The Affiliated Hospital of Beihua University is recognised as the top hospital in Jilin Province. The CSU students received presentations about toxicology, gastroenterology, internal medicine, emergency, orthopaedics, hand-surgery, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Sightseeing continued, to the Great Wall (known in China as 'The Long Wall'). CSU student Mr Durbridge said, "China is a fascinating country with a fascinating history and culture full of mystery for westerners. To look at and touch a piece of art that someone lovingly sculptured over 5 000 years ago, then try and imagine the story behind that person is just breathtaking."
Week three – professional insights and exceptional hospitality
Back in Beijing for week three of the study tour, the students visited the headquarters of Beijing 120 Emergency Centre (ambulance service). They toured the dispatch centre, training division, warehouse, and apparatus floor, examined the medical equipment in the ambulances, and took photos in the helicopter simulator.
The students visited the International SOS Clinic and Assistance Centre in Beijing and received a comprehensive lecture about iSOS from the Director of Asian Operations. They toured the incredible facility that houses an outpatient clinic, an emergency department, a dentist office, pharmacy, lab, physiotherapy services, and an international assistance call centre. The students learned about the range of services that iSOS offers including travel insurance, international medical clinics, security services, air ambulance, on-site industrial paramedic, remote medical services, and response to major disasters.
Ms Marsden said, "The 2014 CSU Global Paramedic trip to China was one that shaped me on a professional and personal level. Witnessing medical practices in ambulance stations, public and private hospitals, and nursing universities, gave us insights into how things operated similarly and differently in a significantly larger country. One of the most valuable lessons learnt while observing in these places was the sheer dedication, efficiency and steadfast work ethic of the employees - nurses, doctors, students and paramedics alike. It was a revelation and an example of how we, as students, should strive to mould our practice to match that of these professionals.
"The aspect that impacted me the most on this trip was our first-hand experience of the beautiful Chinese culture, and in particular, the people. Words cannot adequately describe the genuine, humble, giving and selfless nature of the people we met, and of the people who hosted us. Their hospitality was unlike any I have ever experienced, and I am truly thankful to have been a part of it."