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Health Education in Vietnam

LaRelle Catherman MSN ’96, Co-founder and Executive Director, MEDRIX

LaRelle CathermanLaRelle Catherman, Master of Science in Nursing

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While working on her master’s degree in nursing leadership at SPU, LaRelle Catherman, a nurse employed by Group Health, had a chance to travel to Vietnam for a short-term nursing trip. Almost immediately, that trip turned into something more.

“The director of the hospital invited me to return to Vietnam to learn why children were dying of diarrhea,” she says.

Since then, she’s returned to Vietnam many times as executive director of Medrix (Medical, Educational, and Development of Resources Through International Exchange), an organization she founded with her husband, Bob.

Clean water, nursing education and research, and children’s heart surgeries are among the health projects Medrix has sponsored, in Hue, Vietnam, building long-term partnerships with the staff of Hue Central Hospital since Catherman’s first visit to Vietnam in 1994.

Medrix has also hosted eight groups of SPU nursing students studying abroad since 2006. There the SPU students go with Vietnamese nursing educators and doctors on hospital rounds and learn how to provide the best possible nursing care with limited resources.

“If you don’t have all the fancy machinery and all the fancy tests, how do you diagnose and treat health problems accurately?” Catherman asks. “You look, listen, and feel. It is called the nursing process. Nurses first make an assessment, and then they plan, and then implement their plan using evidence based criteria. After implementation they evaluate and reassess the effectiveness of their plan. It is the core of nursing worldwide. And SPU does an awesome job of teaching this concept.”

“Technology is developing in Vietnam, and that’s absolutely wonderful,” she says. “But our students learn so much from being quizzed by their preceptors and from closely observing patients over time.”

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