A change in Operation Nightingale’s focus


Medical education does not exist to provide students with a way of making a living, but to ensure the health of the community

 – Rudolph Virchow

In the 12 years Operation Nightingale (ON) has been in operation, we have fostered the development of Cambodian doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. Through mentoring, training, scholarships, collaborations and practical experience, we helped augment the healthcare services available in the provinces. And we want to build on this success. We are excited about our plans to focus on tertiary education to develop the skills of the next generation of medical professionals. 

Our plan – more medical scholarships

With a belief that a person’s desire and ability to heal should not be determined by how much money they have, in 2014 Awareness Cambodia established the medical scholarships program. 

The program enables academically gifted but impoverished students with an aptitude for medicine to pursue their dream of being doctors. We provide the students with all the resources they need to complete their medical studies in Phnom Penh by providing them with a home at Graduation House, paying for their tuition, having ON doctors and Australian medical specialists mentor them and providing the support they need.

Since the program’s inception, 6 students have joined the medical scholarship program. We are also continuing the scholarship program for post-graduates looking to enter specialities.

With the ongoing support of the medical profession and financial contributions from those who believe in our program, we will look to increase the number of scholarships made available for those with a passion for medicine but without the means to pursue a career in it.

It is also our hope that we will be able to establish a similar scholarship program for nurses.

There is an established need for nurses both in Cambodia and across the world. By providing scholarships for students with the desire and drive to become nurses we can help address that need. 

A meeting with the Cambodian Director of the World Bank in 2018 and subsequent discussion with the Head of the World Bank Health Department in 2019 was welcomed as an opportunity to explore how Awareness Cambodia might cooperate with the World Bank and Cambodian Government to provide nursing scholarships for impoverished provincial students. We will further explore this opportunity in 2020.   

Our plan – creating a nursing program

Quality nurses are in high demand both locally and internationally. And Australian-accredited nurse are held in high esteem globally.  

By introducing an Australian-accredited nursing course in Cambodia through ON, we could help meet that demand with internationally-recognised high-quality trained nurses.

This potentially means significant immediate and long-term impact through:

  • Improving the quality of life for Cambodian women and families. As some sources indicate up to 93% of graduating nurses are women, the course, while not directly creating gender bias, would overwhelmingly empower Cambodian women, lifting them and their families out of poverty.
  • Improving service delivery within the Cambodian health system, particularly in rural communities. Most doctors will not relocate to the provinces, but nursing staff are generally happy to do so.
  • Assisting in identifying and negotiating bottlenecks in international educational service delivery and creating a pathway for the addition of education in other medical-based faculties.
  • Encouraging sustainability by providing a contemporary nurse training program designed to provide graduates with the clinical skills to deliver superior health care – and also ensure continuous learning to keep skills up-to-date.

 Since investigating the opportunity to introduce this program, Awareness Cambodia has received expressions of interest from the UK, Germany and Singapore to invest in/secure Australian accredited nursing graduates from Cambodia.

To introduce this program, Awareness Cambodia will need the support of the medical profession to develop the program and the financial backing to deliver it. 

Our plans need support

As is often the case, the development of the tertiary focus will largely depend on access to funding.

CEO, Dr Gary Hewett would be happy to discuss the proposed programs with any individual, business or organisation that may be able to help us turn this dream into a reality.

Contact Gary at [email protected]