How I came to really appreciate the NHS

Abi Woodhams with colleagues in Nepal

Abi Woodhams, left, with colleagues in Nepal

A University of Brighton student nurse worked a two-week placement abroad and what she encountered “made me value every aspect of the NHS”.

Abi Woodhams, studying Nursing (Adult) BSc(Hons), said she thoroughly enjoyed her two-week elective in a Nepalese hospital and learned a great deal – and quickly came to realise just how good the UK health system is.

Here, she gives an account of her journey:

“When I walked out of the airport, I was taken aback by the heat and busy crowds. We quickly spotted the blue Work the World t-shirt we’d been told to look out for (Work the World are the organisation that planned our placement). We were met by a smiling face and a warm welcome to Nepal.

“The taxi ride to the house was the most amazing journey — it felt almost unbelievable that I was finally in Kathmandu after all the months of planning.

“On Monday, we went out with the team and took a tour of Thamel. They helped us exchange money safely and to get a local sim card to make communicating easier.

Abi with nursing colleague and children orphaned in Nepals 2015 earthquake

Abi with nursing colleague and children orphaned in Nepals 2015 earthquake

“We then explored the Garden of Dreams, wandered around the shops, and took a rickshaw ride around the market — one of the highlights from my time in Nepal!

“We then enjoyed a traditional Nepalese lunch and tried delicious new foods.

“We then returned home and had a language lesson. Trying to learn basic words and phrases was great fun (patients in my placement hospital found my Nepalese hilarious and it became a good ice breaker!)

“On our first day of placement, the team walked us to our placement hospital. We then met the hospital’s Head of Departments, got our ID badges and took a tour of the hospital.

“My placement was based in the emergency department. The team introduced me to the nurse in charge who then paired me with one of the other staff nurses on duty that day.

“At first, I was overwhelmed. The hospital was small and had a limited number of beds, which meant there were 2 – 4 people in one bed!

“Patients’ families carried out all the personal care, delivered pathology samples to the lab, and went to buy all the medicines and equipment needed. In the UK all care is free at the point of delivery and professionals do all personal care.

“And in the UK, there’s no charge for the price of equipment. It was a big shock to learn that local people had to pay for basics like needles and cotton wool.

“It took me a while to find a sink with running water to wash my hands. I was taken aback by how busy it was, but also how organised it was despite the overcrowding.

“On ward rounds I learnt a lot from the doctors, nurses and local students. The staff were so helpful in explaining in English what was going on, making sure I was involved.

“Local staff were great at diagnosing conditions just from examining the patient. They would do imaging and blood tests after the fact. I felt like I had limited knowledge in comparison to local students when it came to reading scans and understanding the presentation of typical diseases and illnesses.

“I also learnt a lot about infectious diseases and things like TB and hepatitis, which are not seen so much in the UK.

“One patient who stayed in my memory was an elderly gentleman who had been in A&E for two days. He had undergone surgery for a large abdominal wound and needed a colostomy bag.

“There was no post-operative ward or bed available at the hospital, so the man had to come to A&E. He was in a bed with two other patients — one with Hepatitis B and one with pneumonia.

“As he had a surgical wound, he was at a high risk of infection. This alarmed me as he was in a bed with two infectious patients. He had IV fluids running. However, the cannula was tissued and wouldn’t run the fluids through.

“In the UK I would have just changed the cannula to stop the risk of sending a blood clot around the body. However, in Nepal, the patient would have had to pay for the new one, which was not an option for him as he wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

“A nurse spent 25 minutes trying to unblock the cannula. She was successful and the IV fluids ran through.

“My experience of A&E in Nepal has been the highlight of my degree.

“It has enabled me to experience and witness another country’s approach to health care — this cannot be learned from a textbook and experiencing it puts everything into perspective and makes you value every aspect of the NHS.

“If you have the opportunity to undertake an overseas placement like this, I 100% recommend it — you will have the most amazing time.”

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