Ken­neth Wong recalls the pain of watching chil­dren suffer from severe burns and their fam­i­lies strug­gling to cope. It was a dif­fi­cult part of his nursing co-​​op expe­ri­ence in China ear­lier this year, but he said it was also incred­ibly rewarding to observe many of those chil­dren get better over time, thanks to the care he helped provide.

It was great to see these kids run around like other kids. I felt like we did so much for them so they could live a better life,” said the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity senior nursing major of his expe­ri­en­tial learning opportunity.

Wong’s co-​​op was through Han­dReach, an inter­na­tional net­work of med­ical pro­fes­sionals and vol­un­teers that pro­vides poor chil­dren with serious injuries, such as severe burns, with quality health care. From Jan­uary through April, Wong worked pri­marily at the Air Force Gen­eral Hos­pital in Bei­jing. He also worked for part of his co-​​op at two other hos­pi­tals in Changsha, the cap­ital of China’s Hunan Province.

While on co-​​op, Wong gained invalu­able expe­ri­ence working with doc­tors and nurses. He pre­pared burn dress­ings and assisted during surg­eries. In his nursing role, Wong set up patients with oxygen, recorded their vital signs, drew blood, and admin­is­tered intra­venous medication.

But his inter­ac­tion with his young patients left the greatest impres­sion on him. He said the med­ical staff also treated him as one of their own.

I felt like part of their family. It was amazing to be so close to some­thing that was so for­eign to me,” he said.

Despite knowing Can­tonese, one big chal­lenge he encoun­tered was learning the Man­darin dialect, which the hos­pital workers spoke. But he took the ini­tia­tive to com­pile his own English-​​Mandarin dic­tio­nary of key med­ical terms. Wong also shared it with health pro­fes­sionals there to help them learn Eng­lish, and he hopes to pass it along to future North­eastern co-​​op students.

In July, North­eastern phys­ical therapy fac­ulty mem­bers Lorna Hay­ward and Ann Louise Char­rette, accom­pa­nied by grad­uate stu­dent and trans­lator Li Li, will travel to China to help doc­tors at JianShe Hos­pital in Changsha estab­lish a pedi­atric reha­bil­i­ta­tion room for patients, and to explore the pos­si­bility of set­ting up a per­ma­nent co-​​op program.