Alumna becomes Nursing Director in Laos Pediatric Hospital

Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) - 2
Alumna Rebecca Morante is now the Nursing Director at the Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC).

From Mount Royal University to Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) in southeast Asia, Rebecca Morante is making her mark. As a graduate of Mount Royal's nursing program, Morante always desired a career in the areas of humanitarian work and development, and capacity building.

"I wanted to work in developing countries where I could be a part of the work locals are doing to improve their own health and empower themselves," she said.

After travelling to Laos and working in the LFHC for three months, Morante was offered a position as Nursing Director in January 2016.

"Taking this international position was easy," said Morante. "They want so much to learn and do what they can to improve healthcare for children."

The LFHC is a new pediatric hospital located in Luang Prabang, Lao People's Democratic Republic. It opened in February 2015. This hospital is the first full-service pediatric facility outside of the country's capital that provides free care to all children.

"(Projects like LFHC) are important because they empower local staff with education, skills and resources to provide care to their own community," said Morante. "I'm constantly in awe with the determination, compassion and humour of our staff."

As is with many rural areas of the globe, access to healthcare in Loas can be difficult to find - especially, specialty care. It's difficult to estimate the exact impact that the LFHC has had on the Laos population but according to Morante there are already visible changes in the community.

"We are seeing more patients than were seen by the provincial hospital's pediatric unit. The community and the government understand our desire to be partners in their healthcare - they know who we are and that we are dedicated to improving the health needs of Lao children," she said, adding that she feels the best way to influence change is through leading by example.

"It's my responsibility to provide incentive, opportunity, education and a good example. My biggest obstacle is seeing potential and trying to aim us there without getting discouraged."

Director of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at MRU, Pam Nordstrom, is pleased to see the impact grads of the nursing program, such as Morante, are having in communities both within Calgary and around the globe.

"From day one, the MRU Bachelor of Nursing program helps students focus on the promotion of health and wellness of individuals, families, communities and populations," said Nordstrom.

Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) - 1
Morante celebrates the donation of disposable gloves to the LFHC.

"They learn that to effect change, they need to develop relationships and engage with community decision-makers. This knowledge foundation is critical for the work that (Rebecca) is doing with the children, families and communities in Laos."

Although at times the position feels as if it is made for more than just one person, Morante wouldn't change it for the world.

"I have never worked for so many hours in a day, or as hard as I have in the past few months," she said. "But Confucius said: 'Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life'."

Currently, Morante is working toward encouraging LFHC staff to become community teachers. She is also highlighting nursing research opportunities within Laos and southeast Asia.

"We have the potential to put out crucial information about pediatrics in Laos and southeast Asia," said Morante, adding that her team is looking for researchers to collaborate with in areas such as blood disorders, family planning, family centred care, palliative care and antibiotic resistance, among others.

As she continues her journey at the LFHC, Morante reflects on her experiences at Mount Royal.

"I appreciated the feeling of MRU," said Morante, "Students come first and the learning environment generates positive results."

Nordstrom says Morante is applying her learning at Mount Royal to become a leader of change in a community on the other side of the globe.

"She may be a world away from the classroom, but the knowledge she gained here is bringing health to the children and families of Laos, which will in turn contribute to a healthier nation," Nordstom said.

As she continues her work on the other side of the globe, Morante can feel the value of her contributions.

"Sometimes, as health professionals, we can get lost in the myth that what we do doesn't matter," she said.

"It matters every time."

Kelsey MacCuaig — April 26, 2016