For my second year elective placement, I attended a hospital in my home town of Sunderland, so when it was time to make the decision of where to spend my third-year elective I wanted to go as far away as possible. I heard about Work the World from a fellow student who spoke very highly of his experience and the organisation.
I decided to go to Kathmandu because Asia is not somewhere I have visited before and I have always had a fascination with Mount Everest and the Himalayas, so it seemed like a no brainer.
It was clear I made the right choice during my orientation day. Travelling around Kathmandu we visited some beautiful sites, local markets, traditional restaurants and used public transport which was an experience in itself.
My first day of placement was a big shock, I have only experienced healthcare in the UK and the hospital setting was a lot different. I expected the quality of equipment and the hospital environment to be very different to that of the NHS but it still came as a big shock when I first walked around the hospital. What shocked me the most was the number of patients in such a small hospital and, what seemed to me at first, in total disarray.
I realised that the operation of the department was very efficient despite the limited services available.
My first impression of the x-ray rooms was that the equipment was a lot older than what I am used to in the UK and again, at first, the department seemed disorganised and extremely busy. However, after my first few days in radiology, I realised that the operation of the department was very efficient despite the limited services available. It just seemed disorganised to me at first as it was so different from the operations of departments back home.
One challenging aspect of my placement was communicating with patients and members of staff. The majority of patients did not speak any English. However, the majority of radiographers spoke basic English and all medical terminology used in radiology was in English. Although it was sometimes difficult to have conversations with patients and staff, it meant I developed other areas of my communication skillset significantly. I did learn a handful of phrases prior to travelling to Kathmandu and the weekly language lessons at the Work the World house helped a lot too.
The biggest difference in the radiological practice in Kathmandu compared to the UK was the imaging techniques used. The best example of this was when positioning a patient for a weight-bearing knee image, the radiographer would ask the patient to stand on one leg whilst holding the cassette behind their knee which proved to be difficult for the majority of patients. To make this technique even more difficult, due to some of the equipment not working, the patients had to stand on a table to allow the images to be taken. This is something that would not be allowed to happen in the UK due to health and safety, but in Kathmandu, it was normal practice.
I was welcomed into the radiology department from the moment I walked through the doors.
I felt the most valuable part of my trip was the interaction with hospital staff and the locals. They were extremely welcoming and also very excited that I’d taken the opportunity to come over and experience healthcare in their local hospital. The conditions and equipment that were available within the hospital did not reflect the quality of care delivered by the radiographers and their attitude towards the profession. I was welcomed into the radiology department from the moment I walked through the doors and this was also reflected in the locals I would encounter during my weekend travels or when popping into the town of an evening.
Outside of placement, my experience in Kathmandu was amazing and this was purely down to the setup of the Work the World house and the team whose job it was to look after students (which they did extremely well). After placement, we would either socialise in the house with the other students or go out and see the wonderful sights of Kathmandu. As everyone in the house eats together of an evening we would often sit outside in the garden together and chill out, talking about our day on placement and sharing stories.
Before arriving in Kathmandu I was sure I wanted to do some travelling on the weekends. I looked into a number of companies who could organise weekend trips, but upon arrival at the Work the World house I realised I would not need to worry about this. The team in the Work the World house offered their advice and local-expertise on wherever I wanted to go and showed me a really helpful book filled with tips and experiences from previous students.
On my first weekend, we spent the night in Nagarkot in a hotel with beautiful views. We had food and drinks in the hotel before getting up at 4am to catch the sunrise. We had a local guide organised to take our group on a trek which took us through the hills and villages where we met the locals and even got invited into a village ‘café’ for a cold drink. This ‘café’ was a makeshift shed and we had a cow for company, but a fantastic experience nonetheless. Using a local guide was a great idea as he told us stories and tales whilst we rambled through the hills, what certain families farmed and where they sold their crop was a great way to get a sense of rural life in Nepal. The most memorable part of the trek was when we passed through a small village and were greeted by a small group of children asking for chocolate. We all decided to hand out any snacks we had brought along and the reaction of the children was priceless.
The following weekend a large group of us travelled to Pokhara for three days and four nights. We spent our first night up on the hill of Sarangkot with the most breathtaking views of Pokhara below. We got up the following morning for sunrise which is best viewed from a viewing point a short walk away at around 5500ft above sea level. From the viewing point we were greeted with the most amazing sunrise over the Himalayas. The weather was surprisingly clear for the time of the year so we were very lucky. After the sunrise, a few crazy members of the group (myself included), jumped into a taxi to downtown Pokhara to do a bungee jump. A first time experience for everyone in the group and it was a terrifying but brilliant decision. After surviving the bungee jump we jumped back in a taxi to meet more of the travelling group to go paragliding. With breathtaking views of Pokhara and the lake, it was a great experience to finish off a morning of activities. We spent the rest of the weekend eating, drinking and seeing the sights of Pokhara which was a nice chilled time away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.
Prior to my trip to Kathmandu, I had never travelled alone or visited anywhere outside of Europe. I was unsure about booking the trip for a few months before I made the decision and I am so glad I took this opportunity. Anything and everything you need during your placement is organised, making the experience so much more enjoyable - from being greeted at the airport to the delicious evening meals, the team really do look after you.
One of the best things about the experience was how flexible my time on placement was, I got to enhance my learning experience by maximising the time in departments I felt were most beneficial to my learning.
Living with other healthcare students meant I got the opportunity to discuss the role and responsibilities of other professions in ways I would not get the chance to do back home. One of my main worries was travelling alone, but arriving at the same time as other students who were in the same position made this worry-free. I made great friends with some amazing people during my three weeks in Kathmandu who I am sure I will keep in touch with and meet up with in the very near future.
I bring away from my time in Kathmandu experiences that will improve me as a radiographer, and as a person, and memories that I will cherish forever. I would recommend to anyone thinking about doing an overseas placement in Kathmandu to go for it, you will not regret it.