When I walked out of the airport I was taken aback by the heat and busy crowds, we soon spotted the blue Work the World t-shirt and was met by a smiling face and warmly welcomed to Nepal.
The Work the World staff met us with a bottle of water – which was the nicest thing in the heat! The taxi ride to the house was the most amazing journey – it felt almost unbelievable that I was finally in Kathmandu after all the months of planning.
On Monday we went out with the Work the World team and had a tour of Thamel. We were helped to exchange money safely and to get a local sim card to make communicating easier. We then explored the garden of dreams, wandered around the shops, and had a rickshaw ride around the market – which was one of the highlights from my time in Nepal!! We enjoyed a traditional Nepalese lunch and tried delicious new foods. We then came home to language lessons and had fun trying to learn basic words and phrases. The patients and locals found my Nepalese hilarious and it became a good ice breaker!
On our first day of placement we were shown the walk to the hospital by one of the lovely team members. We then met the hospital’s head of departments, got our ID badges and had a tour of the hospital. I was in the emergency department and was introduced to the nurse in charge who allocated me with one of the other staff nurses on duty that day.
I was overwhelmed with the hospital at first. It was small and had limited beds that meant there were 2-4 people in one bed. The patients’ families carry out all the personal care, they deliver the pathology samples to the lab, go and buy all the medicines and equipment needed. In the UK all care is free at the point of delivery and professionals do all personal care. There is also no charge for the price of equipment. This was a big shock that they had to pay for basics such as needles and cotton wool. It took me a while to find a sink with running water to wash my hands. I was taken aback by how busy it was, but also how organised it was despite the overcrowding.
I learnt a lot about infectious diseases and things like TB and hepatitis which are not seen so much in the UK.
On the ward round I learnt a lot from the doctors, nurses and other students. All staff were so helpful in explaining what was going on in English and making sure I was involved. I found that they were very accurate in diagnosing conditions just from examining the patient – then they would do imaging and blood tests. I felt like I had limited knowledge in comparison to their students when it came to reading scans and understanding the presentation of typical diseases and illnesses. I learnt a lot about infectious diseases and things like TB and hepatitis which are not seen so much in the UK.
One patient that has stayed in my memory was an elderly gentleman that had been in A&E for two days. He had undergone surgery for a large abdominal wound and needed a colostomy bag. At the hospital there was no post-operative ward or beds available so he had to come to A&E. He was in a bed with two other patients; one with Hepatitis B and one with pneumonia. As he had a surgical wound he was a high risk of infection – this alarmed me as he was in a bed with infectious illnesses. He had IV fluids running, however, the cannula was tissued and wouldn’t run the fluids through. In the UK I would have changed the cannula because of this blockage to stop the risk of sending a blood clot around the body. However, the patient would have to pay for the new cannula which was just not an option for him due to financial reasons. The nurse spent 25 minutes trying to unblock the cannula – she was successful, and the IV fluids ran through.
All the staff in the Work the World house were so welcoming, everything is sorted and organised within the house to make sure you have an amazing time. The food was out of this world – it was so nice to try local food. The staff were helpful at suggesting places to visit. They helped us to organise a trip to Nagarkot for the weekend and gave advice on hotels and transport. This helped us see more of Nepal during our free time. We also did a hike across the smaller mountains which had incredible views – again a highlight of the trip.
My experience of A&E in Nepal has been the highlight of my degree. It has enabled me to experience and witness another country’s approach to health care – this cannot be learned from a textbook and experiencing it puts everything into perspective and makes you value every aspect of the NHS.
If you have the opportunity to undertake an overseas placement with Work the World I would 100% recommend it – you will have the most amazing time.