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Student Nurses Making Videotape For Cambodian Refugees

April 7, 1985

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) _ When pediatrician Arlen Collins saw a massive reddish discoloration on a 3- year-old Southeast Asian refugee’s back, he feared the child might have a bleeding disorder.

Similar bruises and welts on Cambodian youngsters have been mistaken by some doctors as signs of child abuse.

But the marks were caused by a folk remedy used by some Southeast Asians, who rub a coin in a pattern on an area of the body to draw out bad spirits.

Misunderstandings about such procedures are common among medical personnel in this state, where 8,000 Cambodians have settled in recent years.

Six University of Massachusetts nursing students, under the guidance of teacher Jeannine D. Muldoon, are making a videotape to address such problems.

Explaining the germ theory of disease, Western medicine and hygiene in the videotape involves more than surmounting the language barrier, said Mrs. Muldoon. The students also are attempting to bridge cultural etiquette differences.

Senior Susan E. Barstow, who already holds a registered nurse license, said fellow nurses have been frustrated when they tried to explain medication dosage instructions to patients.

″Nurses have asked, ‘Do you understand the directions?’ and Southeast Asians will say ‘yes’ all the time, even when they don’t understand. ‘No’ is rude. They were trying to save face for the nurse,″ said Ms. Barstow, 27.

The 15-minute videotape will follow the progress of a Cambodian family as it adapts to American life and medical treatment.

The tape will focus on the cause and prevention of diseases and will be narrated in English and Khmer.

″We can’t tell them they are causing illness in their children by not using hot, soapy water to clean their dishes,″ Mrs. Muldoon said. ″By using this third-person approach through the videotape, we hope to save the personal rapport with the family.″

Mrs. Muldoon and her students, who are consulting with physicians and long- settled Cambodian families, said they have heard stories of refugees mistaking refrigerators for closets, cooking on living-room floors because they didn’t know how to use ovens and using bathtubs as toilets.

The tape will emphasize the importance of keeping food cold to prevent spoilage and the need to wash dishes thoroughly to prevent the spread of germs.

Children will learn how to use the toilet, wash their hands, brush their teeth and shampoo their heads to kill lice, a common refugee problem.

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