I wasn’t planning to go with an organisation, but the idea of a solo trip to a developing country was quite daunting. I never find it too much fun to eat out by myself, so I expected in the event that I may get dysentery or something, it would be very unpleasant to be completely alone. To avoid the perils of a lonesome traveller, I decided to book my elective with Work the World. This, in retrospect, was definitely a great idea!
When it came to organising my placement there was a lot of freedom in choosing my speciality, which I appreciated a lot. There was also a choice between working in a private hospital and a government funded hospital, so the placement really can be tailored for each student depending on their interests. In the end I chose to do 4 weeks doing obs & gynae at at a government regional Hospital.
Before I left, Work the World gave me all the necessary information about the trip, so there wasn’t too much to worry about. You do have to get to Pokhara airport yourself from Kathmandu (it has to be organised through a Nepal agent) , but they gave me names of trusted travel agencies (who gave me discounts) which was really great.
The house in Pokhara
The Work the World house is spacious, clean, and, I expect, quite luxurious compared to other residences in Nepal! There is everything you need to make you feel at home, and they even make your bed for you every day. All the rooms are shared with one or two other students, which I think is a nice way of making friends without being over crowded. The shower has hot water, which is really rare in Nepal!!
Krishna was a really great cook, and there was always more than enough yummy food for everyone, regardless of your dietary requirements.
The government hospital is probably one of the best examples of healthcare in an under-resourced setting I can imagine. The obstetric ward was extremely crowded, with patients lying on bare wooden planks, and many more of them on the floor. If I was to describe the ward it would be hot, humid, crowded, dingy, with a mixture of smells including sweat, blood, liquor, stagnant air, and perhaps few others that I couldn’t identify (and perhaps best left unidentified!). It is also very loud due to the women screaming, as majority of them cannot afford any pain relief. It does take some time to get used to, but there is much to see and learn as there are clinical cases you don’t encounter often in the UK.
We joined the ward rounds during the morning. All the doctors on the ward were very friendly and welcoming despite their heavy workload. If you wanted some hands on experience, the junior doctors were very helpful and encouraging. There are higher risks of blood borne infections however, so I did as much as I felt comfortable with. You might want to bring your own gloves, as they do re-use their gloves.
The Village Healthcare Experience
As well as my placement at the hospital, I did one week of Village Healthcare Experience. The trek up to Nalma village was a lot more intense than I had anticipated, and sadly I came to the realisation that I am actually extremely unfit! Despite setting off very early in the morning, by the time we got to the village it was about 10pm, and both my friend and I were ready to pass out! We both really liked our host family - they literally welcomed us with open arms, and throughout our stay they made sure we felt at home, comfortable and well fed. Our placement was at the village health post, with a trained village healthcare provider. When the patients came in he would translate for us. With some cases I had no idea what the condition was, so it helped a lot that I wasn’t by myself and I could ask for advice. It’s definitely helpful to bring the Oxford Handbook!
We had the afternoon to ourselves, so we either just relaxed, or spent time with the host family. I would say a good book is a must on your kit list. Helping the family make dinner was really fun, so we did that most nights. I did feel that the village experience gave me an opportunity to experience how most people live in Nepal, so I’m very glad I signed up for it.
So anyway, as a conclusion I would say that I recommend Work the World to anyone who is considering booking their elective through an organisation. From what I experienced they are very true to their word – that is, everything they offered met my expectations, if not exceeded them. I was really happy with both the UK staff and the staff in Nepal, as they were all friendly, helpful and organised. Through Work the World I was able to have an excellent clinical experience, I met many students from around the world, and I’ve made some really great friends – all in all, money very well spent!