I had been excited to come to Cambodia to serve the Khmer people since I found out I was selected to participate in Mercer on Mission. I jumped at the chance to be part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team, as this has been a topic that has weighed on me for some time. In healthcare environments, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists all work as a collaborative team to shape the best outcomes for patients. The ability to function as a cohesive team is vital to patient care, yet we do not learn together as students. I looked forward to an invaluable experience with everyone working together towards a common goal and each of us learning from one another. 


While I worried if we could truly make a lasting impact in the lives of the people we would be serving, I welcomed the opportunity to try.  One of the most impactful and unexpected aspects of this trip was how willing the Khmer people were to share their stories with me. As the trip went on, I was able to learn a great deal about their cultural norms, and the shocking prevalence of mental illness, and this allowed to me to gain my patients’ trust while providing culturally competent care. Their stories were at times both heartbreaking and beautifully moving.  After being given the privilege of hearing many stories, it became apparent all of my patients shared a common thread – resiliency. It was thoroughly humbling for me to hear about some of the tragedies the Khmer people had gone through, and yet, they did not display one iota of bitterness. They were so joyful, and something as small as sitting and listening to them and holding their hand brought great joy to them. To stare down such horrors as the mass genocide and torture in the Khmer Rouge, the loss of children, not having the resources to get their very sick baby medical care, or not being able to feed their family, and still come out on the other side even stronger, was an awe-inspiring thing to witness. 


One of the reasons I chose nursing was due to the fact that nurses are blessed with being able to bear witness to some of the most intimate moments in peoples lives. Every person you meet has a story to tell, and they are equally important regardless of race, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, or inability to pay for medical care. This is not something I ever take for granted, and each patient I meet who allows me to be a part of his or her story is treasured.  I have never met a more genuinely gracious and uniquely special group of people such as the Khmer, and the things I have learned from them, I will carry with me with me forever. Additionally, I gained knowledge from the pharmacy and medical students I never could have learned in school, and I am thoroughly grateful for the entire experience. 


- Misty Hemm, Nursing Student

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