University of Southampton 2023

Medical, Nepal Kathmandu

I am a 5th-year medical student attending the University of Southampton. As part of my degree, I had the opportunity to do a medical elective overseas. I decided to spend 4 weeks in Kathmandu in Nepal.

I wanted to go somewhere where there were not the health provisions that we have at home, and I also wanted to see a culture that was totally different.

I had been to Tanzania in Africa a few years ago and I was keen to go somewhere totally different. 

When I first landed in Kathmandu, it appeared hectic, but it was definitely friendly-hectic!

Once I came through arrivals I was greeted at the airport by the Work the World team which I have to be honest was very comforting. I was taken straight back to the Work the World house. 

The following day we went on a city and hospital orientation which was really useful. I was totally surprised by the hospital. In the Emergency there were about 2-3 patients per bed, it was really quite shocking.

It made me feel really quite lucky when thinking about my own healthcare system, it made me appreciate the progress that has been made back home. It is incredibly humbling.

During my time in Kathmandu, I spent two weeks in the Emergency Department and two weeks in Psychiatry. The biggest difference was the lack of provisions. Even though the hospital is partly funded by the Government all patients still had to buy all medications and provisions for the doctors to treat them, such as cannulas, drips and so on.

Another big difference is seeing how much the patients' families helped care for them. They were responsible for so much, they were practically taking on the role of a nurse. The cultural difference with the family running around was amazing to see really, it feels like it’s something that’s lost a bit at home.

Seeing the sheer amount of patients waiting outside the Outpatient Department each morning was staggering.

A crowd of what must have been about 300 people just waiting for different appointments, it was an incredibly busy hospital.

Spending time with the hospital team was great. Although I don’t speak any Nepali we all still spoke the one language - medicine.

We’re more similar than different, they are educated to a very similar level as we are at home, which was surprising but really good to see.

Working alongside them was great. They were more than happy and willing to get me involved. You have to put yourself out there.

If a new patient came in I would go and ask what was going on and staff would take me through everything that was going on with the patient. They were so approachable and friendly.At home, we see a fair few paracetamol overdoses, but in Nepal, they take pesticides. There were many patients arriving with organic phosphate poisoning which you would never ever see in the UK. It was eye-opening.

Kathmandu is a busy city. It’s hectic with people rushing around but everyone is so friendly. There is so much to do in the city - so many great bars and restaurants, and loads of temples, it’s a very fun city to live in.

One weekend I went to Pokhara which was by far my favourite place. I got to see the Annapurna mountain range. I went to Sarangkot, one of the most popular Himalayan viewing points, towering at an altitude of 1600m to watch the sunrise.

We also went paragliding over Lake Phewa which was a lot of fun.

Living in the Work the World house was incredible. I have made good friends for life, the whole group was so close-knit. We were all healthcare professionals, we had all chosen to come to the incredible country that is Nepal.  

The house was fantastic, way better than I expected. It was such a friendly, homely atmosphere, you felt very safe and relaxed there. We had some really fun nights all together in the house, playing cards, and having drinks after placement.

I would encourage anyone considering going overseas for a medical elective to do it.

In the months leading up to my elective in Nepal, I was on placement. All the doctors were so excited about my upcoming elective and kept reminiscing about their electives. I kept thinking, I hope my experience is going to be as good as theirs and that in years to come I am able to reminisce and share my experience with others, and here I am - reminiscing a week after returning home! 

I think it is so important for healthcare professionals to see more of how healthcare is in the rest of the world. You can watch all the documentaries etc. but there is nothing quite like experiencing it first-hand and being in the thick of it.

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