I recently completed my physiotherapy elective placement in Kathmandu, Nepal through Work the World and it was most certainly the experience of a lifetime.
As part of my course I am required to do a four-week elective placement. Students from past years who did their placements through Work the World always talked about how great an experience it was. So I looked into it and decided to go through WTW because it was so hassle free, all the information needed was on the website or provided on “MyTrip”, and there were calls in the lead up to leaving to make sure everything was in order. The information on visas, and the advice on appropriate dress in the culture I was travelling to, was essential.
The choice of Kathmandu was offered to me as a new program, and I chose it because it is a bustling city with lots of culture and a wide variety of weekend travelling options.
I looked into it and decided to go through WTW because it was so hassle free
On arrival at the airport I was met by Sean, the Programme co-ordinator in Kathmandu. He helped navigate the chaos outside of the airport and got me back to the WTW house. We were then given a tour of the house and the time and space to get settled in and get to know each other. The house was big with lots of room to find a quiet corner to Skype home or all gather for a drink. The rooftop balcony provided an amazing view of the city and surrounding mountains. Krishna, the cook in the kitchen, always provided amazing food for breakfast and dinner. Pancakes are always a favourite at breakfast. Dinner was a range of traditional Nepali food (curry, rice etc.) and western favourites like pasta and pizza. Also, let's not forget everyone's favourite night of the week: Barbecue night. BBQ night was like a let loose midweek night for everyone, both the staff and students would sit down outside and enjoy barbecued chicken, buff, paneer and tofu, with chips, pakoda and other sides. Lakshmi did an amazing job of keeping the place clean and the security guards were always by the gate with a smile.
Our city orientation included being shown where to get our money changed to the local Nepali Rupees, and getting set up with local numbers to stay in contact. We were taken to the Garden of Dreams, which is a welcome spot of quiet tranquillity in the middle of the bustle of the city. We then entered Thamel, which is the main tourist area of the city, where there is all kinds of shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
On the first day in the hospital, Sean took us all in, made sure we got our ID badges from the office and introduced us to our supervisors. My supervisor, Dr Krishna Nepal, who was an amazingly patient and knowledgeable professional, the ideal supervisor who, in equal parts, tests your knowledge and teaches you to fill in the gaps.
I spent my mornings in the outpatient clinic and afternoons in the orthopaedic wards. In outpatients I saw a variety of conditions mostly arising from the heavy labour jobs done in Nepal such as mechanical back pain, plantar fasciitis and rotator cuff disorders. There were also traumatic injuries, most commonly radius and ulna fractures, which came to the outpatient department after 8 weeks of immobilization at elbow and wrist- resulting in very limited ROM. Treatments used included ultrasound and traction, as well as exercises and hands on techniques.
The orthopaedic wards covered the usual joint replacements, which were done bilateral at the same time, and fractures. I found during my time there was a lot of osteomyelitis as well as fractures in children being treated with skeletal or skin traction. Aside from the traction, treatment in this ward tended to be the usual exercises and mobilising that would be done in the UK.
Outside of the placement there were lots of things to do, even afternoon or evening trips for the end of the day. Keep your hospital ID badge with you when out in the city, it gets you into many attractions without having to pay the tourist fee. This includes Swayambhu, also known as the Monkey Temple, which is one of the main stupas and is located up a great many steps. Also included is Boudha Stupa, which is one of the largest stupas in the world. Pashupatinath is a major Hindu temple, the site of cremations, and is most definitely worth a visit. You could also go take part in a cooking class at Social Tours, which includes eating the food afterwards! There are many other things to see and do, so talk to your supervisor at the hospital or Sean for more ideas.
Taking full advantage of your weekends is a must during your stay, as there is much more to Nepal than just Kathmandu. I was lucky enough to get to take part in Rapani, the rice festival run by Social Tours once a year. You get to go out to a village, plant rice and eat a traditional Newari meal. I also got to take part in another Social Tours event, the annual
Kathmandu Kora Cycling Challenge: a 50Km bike-ride in a clockwise circle around the city, in support of Save the Children. It was a difficult and challenging ride but was definitely worthwhile.
For travel weekends you can fly up to Pokhara, which is a charming city with many more tourists than Kathmandu, some great shopping and paragliding over Fewa Lake. You can also travel to Chitwan National Park for a weekend (by bus or private jeep), take an elephant bath and safari both on foot and by elephant. And of course, I can’t forget Last Resort. It’s a lovely resort on the Tibetan border where you can Bungee jump, canyon swing, white-water raft and many other exciting extreme sports.
Through all of it you can make some awesome friends with the other students in the house and even organise the travel weekends together. One of the best aspects of this experience is that the house becomes just like a big family.