This was probably the extent of my Nepali language after some embarrassing incidents where I was given honey instead of 'Pani' (water) with my dinner.
Around a month ago I returned from an amazing, life changing experience.
A little bit about me.....
I have been nursing for 6 years in Haematology and Oncology. After training in the south of England I then dove straight in at the deep-end working within inpatient cancer care. During my 3 years in the UK I completed my chemotherapy training whilst gaining valuable experience of outpatient chemotherapy. Whilst all this study and work was very enjoyable, I felt an urge to go on a bit of an adventure.
I landed in Melbourne and gained a position at a Cancer Specialist Hospital working in the chemotherapy day ward. During my time in Melbourne I've met many people who have inspired me and I've continued to grow as a nurse.
How did I hear about and get involved with NTR....
After some time travelling around Asia, Australia and NZ I decided I wanted to do something different and challenge myself in a new way. As most nurses can probably relate to, the experience of nursing opens your eyes to how fortunate we are and how different the lives of others can be. The combination of this and travelling around some developing countries sparked my interest in wanting to contribute to health care in the developing world. It took a bit of investigation to find a suitable NGO that shared the same goals as myself. However, on my travels, a friend recommended the Nurse Teach Reach volunteering programs. I was very much attracted to the concept of developing nurses education in a longer term model.
It wasn't long before I contacted Lucy, the founder of NTR and arranged to join the April general program working in a cancer hospital in the Chitwan region of Nepal. I found the work up to the trip very well organised and all the information I required to get a feel of the program very manageable.
On arrival in Kathmandu, Lucy made us all feel very welcome and relaxed. I was so chuffed to be engaged in such a wonderful project. We spent our first night being welcomed to Nepal, with red scarfs and red powder on our foreheads, as a sign of well wishing. Getting to know the group and learning the story of how Lucy came to start NTR 3 years ago. My admiration of Lucy continued to grow throughout our trip.
The following day was spent having an orientation to the program with basic admin and planning the one month program and what our goals would be.
I enrolled in the 4 week general nursing program at BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital. The goal for the time Alice and I whilst at BPKMCH was to train a further 5-6 Preceptors and work along-side them to support their patient assessment and assuring these preceptors were competent in A-G assessments themselves. Additionally, we planned to continue pursuing some of the chemotherapy safety work that the incredible Ida Line had done so well with last year.
Our experience and progress at BPKMCH....
As I landed at Kathmandu I instantly fell in love with the snow-capped mountains. It felt great to be back in Kathmandu and surprisingly very familiar from my previous visit 2 years ago. Alice and I had been in contact via social media prior to our arrival, so it was great to met in person after a long travel journey.
Over the first couple of days we visited some tourist hotspots over the capital city including ancient temples with incredible views covered in prayer flags and monkeys bounding around, hectic roads and reacquainting myself with Daal Bhat. We then got to work on orientation and planning our NTR Program.
Alice and I headed down to Bharatpur where we would be staying for our one month program in Nepal. We got the bus and got to know each other along the way before arriving and meeting our lovely family. We were very well looked after and made great friends with our nepali family. We ate a lot of delicious variations of daal bhatt and dumplings.
During our first week in Bharatpur we were introduced to many senior nurses and doctors and had brief discussions regarding our plans for our time spent in Nepal. We drank a lot of chai tea!
We were introduced to all of the sisters of the various wards in the hospital and spent some time on the medical oncology and day wards learning the daily routine of the wards there. Lucy came down to Chitwan for several days during this week and orientated us to the hospital and the local area. We made our plans for a preceptorship training day the following week. This was decided to be Monday of the following week as Tuesday was Nepali new year entering the year 2072! Which was rather baffling.
We focused on the concept of preceptors, competence and assessment. Continuing professional development is a very new concept to introduce within Nepal and I felt at times the ongoing purpose of nursing development beyond NTR was being misunderstood. Overall I thought the day went well and we were able to educate nurses as to the importance of development and why starting with patient assessment and basic interventions was an essential grounding of clinical practice. It did seem that some senior members of staff were still yet to be convinced of the value of professional development (at times we take for this for granted in our regulated world of NMC and AHPRA), so this will be area for NTR to continue to push for in the future.
Previously, during Ida's trip, great progress had been made regarding chemotherapy safety at BPKMCH. The differences in practices in the medical oncology ward where Ida had focused her work in comparison to the day chemotherapy ward were very noticeable, it will be great to transfer these developments across, however time was very limited whilst we were there and it can be tricky to start introducing changes prior to building a rapport with the staff of a unit.
We commenced further surveys to assess nurses chemotherapy exposure including staff in contact with and not with chemotherapy, to demonstrate a difference. This was a progression from the previous discovery of a high incidence of nurses at the hospital working with chemotherapy reporting side effects of cytotoxic exposure. Unfortunately I was unable to collect results of this survey due to the huge earthquake that hit Nepal during our program. It did not feel appropriate to pressure staff given the circumstances.
During the third week, great progress was being made building a relationship with the staff of the day oncology unit and plans to improve the nursing process. Unfortunately due to the earthquake our program was cut short by a week, as our team and the whole country dealt with the shock of this huge natural disaster and moved toward disaster relief priorities.
My time with Nurse Teach Reach was likely to be one of the biggest learning curves of my life, not only about life in the developing world, but the realisation and reality of my privileged lifestyle which I so often take for granted. I learnt a great deal about myself and the strength of others in disaster situations. I would love to return to Nepal to continue the ongoing support of nurses, limited time felt like one of the biggest barriers to our program alongside my slight lack of confidence. I felt like it took some time to find my direction. I would highly recommend to any nurse to get involved with NTR as it is a wonderful organisation with fabulous ideas and goals for realistic future development across the world.