By David Snyder

Though a qualified medical doctor with the Hanoi Red Cross, Dr. Nga Nguyen Hang says that Vietnam’s medical schools only teach emergency medicine to those who are going to specialize in the field. This leaves considerable gaps in many doctor’s skills when it comes to trauma care.

“In medical school we don’t focus on things like injuries unless we want to work in an emergency room,” Dr. Hang explains. “There are many branches in medical school, just like in hospitals, but we don’t all have specific emergency room training.”

With traffic accident-related injuries on the rise, Counterpart wanted to address this issue as part of its Vietnam Injury Control Program, which took place from 2001-2009.

In keeping with its mission to empower local communities to sustain their own development, Counterpart linked up with the Hanoi Red Cross to train a select group of doctors and nurses in injury treatment and prevention.

“The doctors and nurses who work in the Red Cross system do not work in the hospitals,” explains Duc Pham My, Head of Administration with the Hanoi Red Cross. “It would have been difficult to train hospital staff, but we could easily reach our own staff with trainings.”

Those chosen from within the organization to become trainers were carefully selected based on a number of criteria to help ensure their success in the program.

“They needed to have medical backgrounds and to be on the management board of the Association,” continues Pham My. “They also needed to have some level of communication skills.”

Once trained, that group then went on to serve as the core training group for hundreds of community volunteers and local motorbike taxi drivers, known as Xe Om, giving them valuable skills in First Aid and injury prevention.

As Chairman of the District Red Cross Association in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District, Dr. Hang was among the core group of 12 medical professionals selected for the specialized skills training.

“There were three or four training courses, and each was ten days long,” Dr. Hang says. “I was trained in first aid techniques such as how to stop bleeding and how to deal with broken bones. I was also trained in how to teach others those techniques. We focused on skills like how to present information and how to listen to others.”

Once trained, Dr. Hang herself became a teacher, instructing over 200 local volunteers and Xe Om drivers in First Aid through the successful Safe Fleet Project. However, they did not just educate Vietnam’s taxi drivers; they also brought the training program to local youth and children.

“The Injury Prevention Program was also conducted in ten schools in the district, so I trained teachers from those schools,” says Dr. Hang. “Every year now I still provide training for teachers and students in injury prevention.”

For Dr. Hang, the skills she acquired during her training in 2006 have helped her become not only a better medical professional, but also a better teacher – skills she continues to use each year through her job at the Red Cross.

By educating youth and children about road safety and First Aid at a young age, the hope is that  they will carry this knowledge with them and become safer drivers on Vietnam’s already crowded streets.

Though the actual project has ended, its impact continues to live on.

“It may be hard to measure if injury rates have gone down in a city like Hanoi, but with the additional training of medics and the assistance of the Xe Om Safe Fleet, the care that accident victims receive has certainly improved.”