Thymen Houwen studies at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.
When my best friend and I were finishing our last exams before starting our medical internships, we decided we really wanted to experience other countries with different cultures, before the serious working life started. We were enthusiastic about the opportunity to travel to abroad with Work the World from the beginning! Work the World gave lots of information about all the possible countries and we decided that Kathmandu in Nepal was going to be the place mainly due to the rich and impressive cultural history. We'd also never been to Asia. Work the World did everything possible to make my placement as easy as possible!
When I first arrived in Nepal, I didn't know what to expect. The airport was very crowded, but luckily I was tall enough to see over people's heads! Travelling to the house, the first road experience was unforgettable and very bumpy! I still enjoyed it, because I had finally arrived at my destination.
The Work the World house was very pleasant. The programme manager and the other staff members were friendly and welcoming and the other housemates had all settled in well and welcomed me, along with my best friend who was already there! The fact that you are sharing a house with a like-minded group for a period of time creates a bond with people that will last a lifetime.
The fact that you are sharing a house with a like-minded group for a period of time creates a bond with people that can last a lifetime".
The real hospital experience started after I'd had my city orientation and hospital induction. People can try to prepare you with as much of information as you like, but it will always be different when you actually arrive! I am not going to say that I was shocked, because I was not, but I can say that I was at least surprised with the way healthcare is organised in Nepal. I did my placement at the A&E Department which is fairly busy in a city like Kathmandu, with more than one million people.
The A&E Department was divided into 3 different zones. The green zone was the first area to visit where patients with minor and less complex injuries were admitted. This was a good area to settle in, and to get into contact with injured people under less stressful conditions. The yellow zone was more serious, and this turned out to be the most chaotic area. This area was densley populated with patients and their families. This was the most useful zone to learn how to cope with high patient volumes, understaning which patients needed attention first, how and why to request medical examinations and how to treat patients efficiently. Multi-resistant Tuberculosis, exacerbation COPD, meningitis and withdrawal symptoms for drugs or alcohol are a few examples of the cases that were seen over here day in day out.
The red zone was the area with life threatening cases. This was the hardest place to spend the day. Severe trauma patients, active seizure patients, brain injured patients and much more severely affected patients were treated here. I saw many tragic things during my time here. Unfortunately, sometimes it was because of a lack of the resources to transport patients to the hospital on time and to treat them.
Day shifts in the hospital normally ended between 3pm and 5pm. Time after the hospital was mostly filled with tourist trips into the city of Kathmandu. We were amongst 7 students in the Work the World house, so this made us really close as a group. We visited numerous spots in Kathmandu, many temples, some monasteries in the outskirts and even the crematorium. It was sometimes indescribable how beautiful and mysterious these places were! It was exactly this feeling of experiencing the culture in Kathmandu that I wanted.
We visited other cities and districts near to Kathmandu in the weekends. One of these trips was to Pokhara, the trekking gateway to the Annapurna Mountains. There are enough things to do for several weeks but we had only two and a half days, so we tried to pick the most adventurous things to do. We did a boat tour on the fabulous Phewa Lake, visited the Mahendra Cave and we saw the World Peace Pogoda. We also went paragliding which was fantastic.
I would definitely recommend joining the Work the world community. Everything will be arranged for you and there is not much you need to worry about.
An experience with Work the World will change your vision of the world and will show that many things can and need to be improved in healthcare systems in developing countries. These experiences will be beneficial for your personal and working life forever!