Elective Placements in Vietnam – ODP

BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practitioner and Dip HE Operating Department Practitioner

Thanks to the long-term projects, research and activities undertaken by the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences with staff and Vietnamese universities and hospitals, 13 students from the School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing and Midwifery have been offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Hanoi and experience Vietnamese healthcare and culture.

Ligia Burton was the first ODP student, who spent four weeks in Vietnam during the summer 2017. In 2018, Joanne Roberts and six other ODPs followed Ligia’s students and spent 2 to 4 weeks in Viet Duc and Bach Mai Hospitals.

Here is what Ligia and Joanne thought about their experience.


Ligia Burton

“It really is difficult to say because there is not a single thing that I did not enjoy from this experience. I was privileged to observe/practice abroad, enjoy the beautiful sites after work/weekends, immerse myself in the amazing Vietnamese culture and enjoy the great weather including the most spectacular thunderstorms I have ever seen. The highlight however, was the beautiful people I met and worked with. They were very open, willing to share information on their practices, curious about our practices and very keen to impress." Ligia (2017)

“Both hospitals were very accommodating, and I was fortunate enough to gain experience in surgical specialities that I had not had the opportunity to experience during my placements in Birmingham including transplant surgery, spinal and cardiac. I was also exposed to a lot of emergency/trauma surgery such as open fractures, head injuries, knife injuries and traumatic amputations. This was particularly valuable being a military student since it was a close reflection on the type of injuries that may be encountered on deployment.” Joanne (2018) 

Differences in professional practice

“Both of the hospitals had excellent facilities and modern technology, but the standard of care is definitely lower than that of the UK which is understandable due to Vietnam being a much poorer country, people have to pay for healthcare, and there is an overwhelming number of patients to staff. This did not mean I had a negative experience. In fact, it was very eye opening and made me see the NHS and the way things are done in the UK in a very different light, for example, patients at Viet Duc hospital were in some instances having to share beds, there was very little use of pain relief and no 1:1 care. The hospitals in Vietnam are very reliant on patients’ family looking after them, fulfilling the role of the HCA in the UK.” Joanne


Joanne ODP Vietnam My aim was to gain a better global outlook by having better knowledge and understanding of other cultures healthcare practices and how it impacts the patients, I believe I have achieved that. Due to its tropical climate, many infectious diseases rarely seen in the West are endemic here such as Zika, Malaria and Dengue fever to mention a few (…). Additionally, I got real world experience of giving presentations and attending departmental meetings in which my feedback and knowledge of the UK practice was sought. This re-affirmed and refined my communication skills at higher levels.”

“Experiencing the trauma injuries has been invaluable. Communication skills where a barrier exists have improved which are transferable to dealing with patients in the UK. Adaptability/flexibility has developed since you would be sprung with tasks last minute and plans would change on a regular basis. We also delivered a number of presentations to healthcare professionals whilst on the placement, so I have developed confidence in this.” Joanne

Advice to students considering going abroad

“Go for it! What have you got to lose? Consider what you can gain from such experience which the benefits most likely will outweigh some minor inconveniences such as travel time and language barriers.” Ligia

“Grasp the opportunity with both hands. Your trip is what you make of it so be flexible and confident and immerse yourself in the culture of the country that you visit.” Joanne