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Norfolk woman recounts visit to Australia

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NORFOLK - Thanks to a number of sponsors, a nursing student at SUNY Canton was able to head down under to learn about health care in Australia.

“It was good. I got a lot of education,” Megan Dean of Norfolk said.

Ms. Dean, who works at Massena Memorial Hospital and will be furthering her nursing education, had been nominated by Phi Theta Kappa for an eight-day trip to the Delegation on Nursing in Australia through the International Scholar Laureate program. She had a choice between Australia and China.

It was an eye-opening experience for her, she said, as she learned about the differences in health care.

“I think the care in general is similar. It’s just the health insurance that is different. Everybody has health insurance. The more you make, the more you pay,” Ms. Dean said.

If a household has a combined income of more than $100,000, they must get their own insurance or they’re penalized if they’re still under Medicare.

Australia has both private and public hospitals, and those who don’t have income are still seen at the public hospitals, she said. Those who have private insurance can go to either a public or private hospital.

In addition, Ms. Dean said, 70 percent of the physicians use alternative medicine and don’t get reimbursed for their services.

She said they also learned about the country’s nursing shortage, diseases that are still prevalent in Australia and the history of their midwife program and their traditions.

“We had many guest speakers who were professors, nurses and midwives. We had two different nurses that came in and spoke to us about universal health care, the nursing shortage and how nurses contribute in Australia,” Ms. Dean said. “We also learned about the Medicare system with free health insurance and how rural the center of Australia is. Everyone is based up and down the coast in the city by the Pacific Ocean.”

The group visited the Museum of Human Disease and took tours of a couple women and infant hospitals. They also learned about remote areas of Australia - how secluded they were with no health care and a travel time of more than an hour to reach a hospital.

“We got to learn about Aboriginals. That was my favorite part. We had a talk and then went to an Aboriginal school. It started as a one-room school. Now it has 250 kids,” Ms. Dean said.

“We did community service at a local church. The work we did in three hours would have taken them one month. We sorted clothes to get ready to ship to Fuji,” she added.

During her visit, she and others traveled to Sydney and Brisbane for eight days. Their visit coincided with the winter season, which, in Australia’s case, meant plenty of rain during their stay.

“We had a tour of the most famous opera house. On our free time we went to the botanical gardens, Chinese gardens, Manly Beach and the Markets. Vivid was going on the week we were there. This is were they light up the Sydney Opera House at night as well as some buildings. The whole town glows,” Ms. Dean said.

The Australia visit gave her an opportunity to visit the Koala Sanctuary, where she had her first encounters with koalas, kangaroos and some of the country’s other animals like dingoes, platypuses, parrots and Tasmania.

Ms. Dean had to raise money to make the trip, and she was successful in fundraising $6,000 in one month.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I got pointed in a couple of directions,” she said. “My school funded me over half the money I needed for my trip, and if it wasn’t for SUNY Canton’s help this probably wouldn’t be made possible with the short time I had to raise money.”

Among the other sponsors were Mike Perry from the SUNY Canton College Association, former SUNY Canton Interim President Carli C. Schiffner, C-STEP at SUNY Canton, the Norfolk American Legion, the SUNY Canton Nursing Student Association, Preston Carlisle, Phi Thetta Kappa, Community Development Program, SUNY Canton nursing professor John Conklin and SUNY Potsdam staff members.

Neighbors, area doctors and a Norfolk church also helped fund the trip, as did Jolene and Danny Truax, Scott Storrin, Cheryl Yelle at Yelle Realty, John Sullivan, Stephanie Britt and most of her family, whom she said also helped with her graduation from SUNY Canton.

Ms. Dean said she has been invited to make a presentation to future students at SUNY Canton who might have the same travel opportunity, and she’s also getting ready for her registered nurse boards.

“My boards are coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s the first step to becoming an RN,” she said.

She also plans to head back into the classroom next month to begin her studies for an accelerated Bachelor’s degree in nursing.

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