Public Health Study Tour (PHST)

Chamarie Withanage undertook the Public Health Study Tour in July 2019 as part of her Bachelor of Nursing at RMIT University. Chamarie received a $3, 000 New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to support her participation in this program.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Public Health Study Tour?

I decided to participate in the PHST in Indonesia because I was interested in visiting health care facilities in another country. I believed that this could be the only opportunity that a student might get to explore the public health system in a developing country. Further, the PHST gives credit towards one unit of Bachelor of Nursing at RMIT.  I didn’t have second thoughts about participating in this tour once I knew about it.

It was a good opportunity to spend time with people outside the university and make new contacts while exploring new things and sharing common experiences. It is a better social experience and fun learning activity. I maximised the opportunity to socialize with locals as well.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia?

I was lucky to get a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. This meant a lot for me in relation to expenses associated with the tour. Without the grant this would be just a dream for me. The grant has taken so much weight off and I could focus on my studies. I wasn’t sure about getting the grant initially, but I just applied and I got it.

Q: What did you find to be the most challenging about your experience on the PHST?

Adopting the Indonesian culture was a little challenging for me. The first few days I really struggled to understand the cultural norms, language and environment. The course at Sanata Dharma University was a great help and built up my confidence in starting up a conversation. Language was another challenge as most Indonesians use their mother -tongue. Also using the currency was a big challenge that I did not get right at all. I have Sri Lankan cultural background and that helped me a lot in settling into Indonesian culture, food and society.

Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this tour?

The bureaucratic set up in the healthcare system which is delaying the treatment processes and decision making process. The universal health care system has covered 97% of the population with a major proportion of private spending. Further Puskesmas is the first point of contact by a patient for any health issue, therefore the facilities should be equipped with adequate resources for the diagnosis of the diseases. However, community based health facilities have less resources compared to district hospitals.

Q: Which was your favourite field trip?

My favourite field trip was Puskesmas and Pysundu centres. It was interesting to see how the locals gather in one place and share their crops and knowledge and are having fun with others while providing primary check-ups and nutritional programmes. It was quite different to Australia where the elderly population is being looked after by nursing homes and carers. In my opinion, people who gather at these community centres are rich in mental wellbeing and social support.

Q: How do you think the Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?

I am an undergraduate nursing student and currently in my second year. I will be on my career as a registered nurse by 2021. As a nurse, I will be in contact with diverse cultures in healthcare settings. In this context, it is important to have cultural awareness in providing therapeutic patient-centred care. This tour enhances my understanding and blows my mind to understand how cultural beliefs and values could influence a patient’s view of health, wellness, adhere to treatment and acceptance. Paying respect and accommodate patient preferences according to their cultural beliefs and norms is a part of nursing care.

Q: What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?

Discussion forums and interactions give a broader understanding about the topic. I have raised my burning questions as well. We all learned from each other during the seminars. All the programmes had been organised well above standard by the tour organising team. Citra, Yani, Lala and Dr. Ade Prastyani guided and supported us throughout the tour.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

We had the opportunity to visit some historic places such as Prambanan temple and Ratu Boko which are archaeological sites that one should not miss. Further I had the opportunity to do street (bargain) shopping during our free time, hang out with the friends and enjoy the horse ride and tricycle rides.