Near the end of my Bachelor’s degree, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to start my masters immediately.
I wanted to see another part of the world, get more life experience and do some travelling.
I love mountains and wanted to go to Asia, so the decision to go to Nepal was easy.
For my placement, I decided to go to Pokhara because I love nature and there was the possibility to go trekking.
I did my placement in two hospitals in Pokhara.
The first one was bigger than I expected. It had six levels and eight hundred beds. I was a bit overwhelmed by the chaos in the hospital.
In the Netherlands, I understand how the system works but in my first hospital in Nepal, it was difficult for me to find the system at all.
In every corridor I saw patients and in the rooms, the patient’s family would be asleep on the floor.
Near intensive care, families would be sitting, sleeping and waiting on thin mats, day and night.
That was also the location where doctors would discuss the patients with their families. All the other families could hear when a doctor gave some really bad news. That was strange for me.
Wheelchairs were made of plastic chairs with bicycle wheels attached to them and sterile gauze pieces were folded by nurses on the central desk.
I think the whole hospital had only twenty computers and all patient files were on paper.
Patients would come in with their thick file and a big envelope with their CT-scans, MRIs or X-rays.
Searching for some specific notes could be challenging, but luckily everything was written in English!
At the emergency department, two of the doctors were really passionate about their job and explained to us why they did things a certain way and not like we were used to. It was really helpful in understanding certain decisions.
I assisted with ECGs and taking blood pressures, helped with stitching, spoke with patients and comforted them.
It was not always possible to do something medical, but comforting a young girl after she got involved in a bus accident, felt like I was contributing.
In the other hospital I went to I did an obstetrics and gynaecology placement.
I saw lots of births (natural and C-sections), which go slightly different than at home. Women get medication to speed up the delivery for instance.
In the hospital they would also wash and dry sterile gloves to use them again and, in this way, save money. To be honest, I was really glad I brought my own medical gloves with me.
During my nine weeks in the hospitals, I saw only three alcohol dispensers and after washing your hands, you dried them with a towel which was already soaked.
Creating privacy for patients was hard because the wards were really big and women laid next to thirty-five other women in the same room.
This was not what I was used to, but on the other hand, patients’ families would help each other, no matter what. That was very touching.
The case I will never forget, is a young boy that was brought in by his parents. He had been sick for a few days and that morning he hadn’t woken up.
The doctors did some tests and figured out the child had meningitis. The parents were really poor and didn’t have money to pay for the treatment, but sold everything they had to have their child admitted to hospital.
After a few days, the boy passed away because the parents couldn’t pay for treatment any longer and there was no improvement.
I saw the struggles Nepalese doctors and patients battle with and this particular case really hit me.
In the afternoons and on the weekends we visited the city, went boating on the lake, visited the Peace Pagoda and other monasteries, watched movies in the Movie Garden, went paragliding, went to a bar and did short treks.
There was plenty to do and see and doing things multiple times was not boring at all (I walked up to the Peace Pagoda four times).
Nepal has a lot of festivals and our language teacher invited us to his house during one of those festivals to include us in the ceremony. It was great to participate in their culture.
Village Healthcare Week
I also did the Village Healthcare Week experience, where I stayed with a host family in a rural village for one week.
At the local health post, we mostly took blood pressures and read books, but in the afternoons we dressed up in traditional clothes, had cooking lessons, cut grass, helped our host-grandma cutting crops, chased chickens in the evening to put them in their coop and tried the coolest swing in our entire life.
Before and after my placement, I travelled around Nepal.
I did a trek to Poon Hill and Annapurna Base Camp, visited Lumbini (birthplace of Buddha) and went on safari in Bardia, where I spotted a tiger!
If you go to Nepal, I would recommend you to stay a few days in Kathmandu, so you can visit the old city, Swayambunath (Monkey Temple), Pashupatinath, Bodanath and Bhaktapur.
Overall, my trip to Nepal has been an amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone!
I was away from home for three and a half months, but time flew by and I had the time of my life.
An overseas placement might not give you as much medical knowledge as a placement back home would, but you get loads of other knowledge about other cultures, people and yourself. It is really worth it!