I chose to visit Kathmandu for my mental health nursing placement as I was interested to see how cultural and economic differences impact how mental health is perceived and treated. I’ve also visited India previously and had always wanted to head north to Nepal, so this was the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
The hospital in Kathmandu is sprawling and my first impression was that I was bound to get lost – which turned out to be accurate! Compared to hospitals at home, it felt loud and bustling, with small, dark corridors and lengthy queues of people waiting to access A&E or pay for services. The psychiatric ward is at the top of a winding staircase and behind a gate with a security guard on duty. It felt quite intimidating arriving on the first morning, but I quickly realised that I had nothing to be worried about – the staff and patients (and their families!) were all absolutely lovely!
I quickly settled into the ward routine, with morning handover followed by ward rounds then group therapy. Fortunately, all medical notes are in English as are ward rounds, so the language barrier wasn’t as much of an issue as I’d worried it would be. My attempts at speaking Nepali were often greeted with gales of affectionate laughter, especially by the other student nurses, but I think the effort was genuinely appreciated.
On one occasion a patient had prepared a reading in English especially for me, which was really touching.
My favourite part of the day was group therapy, which was always facilitated by the student nurses. We would gather in a circle and start with some stretches led by one of the patients. The patients would then take turns to share a skill, such as singing a song or leading a meditation. On one occasion a patient had prepared a reading in English especially for me, which was really touching.
I was able to accompany a patient to ECT, which seems to be used much more frequently in Nepal than in the UK. It is treated as a surgical procedure, hence the wearing of hair nets and masks. Seeing the canula being inserted and anaesthetic being administered in the corridor outside the operating theatre highlighted the lack of facilities in Nepal, which impacts all areas of healthcare.
Staying in the Work the World house was great and I was lucky to have really lovely roommates. It is so helpful to be able to come back from the hospital and debrief with other people who are experiencing the same things as you. We spent the afternoons exploring Kathmandu, which is a stunning city and very easy to get around. We also spent the weekend in Pokhara, which is well worth visiting.
I’m so glad I went and had what will truly be a once in a lifetime experience.