Mental Health Nursing with Fiona

Third year Mental Health Nursing student Fiona Mair reflects on her time on placement in Kathmandu, Nepal.

"This experience has made me very grateful for the standard of care we take for granted here."

My name is Fiona Mair and I am currently in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (Mental Health) at Edinburgh Napier University. 

As part of my studies, I had the opportunity to travel to Kathmanda, Nepal with Work the World and undertake a two week placement on the Psychiatric Ward at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. I chose Nepal for this placement opportunity as I was interested to see how cultural and economic differences impact the perception and treatment of mental health.

My Role on Placement

During my time at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, I attended daily ward rounds with other nursing and medical students. I was also able to get involved with daily group therapy sessions, despite my very limited Nepali. Group therapy was always facilitated by the student nurses and it was my favourite part of the day. 

We gathered in a circle and patients took turns to share a skill, like 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 also assisted in taking a patient down to theatre for Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which is used more frequently in Nepal than it is in the UK. Watching the cannula being inserted and anaesthetic being administered in the corridor outside the operating theatre highlighted the lack of facilities in Nepal.

What I learned

My time on this placement really taught me the importance of non-verbal communication. I have very limited Nepali, and the patients rarely spoke any English, but I was still able to have meaningful exchanges with them. 

In mental health nursing, communication is a critical skill, especially when patients are distressed and therefore struggling to put things into words. I also saw the important role that family can play in calming and supporting patients in tough moments.

Going on this placement meant that I was able to understand the principles behind the care being delivered on the ward. Everything I had learned at University gave me a good grounding in the diagnoses that I saw, which enabled me to compare the treatments used in Nepal with treatments we would use here in the UK.

My biggest highlights

I was pleased to see ECT being performed as I haven’t been able to accompany a patient in the UK. I also really enjoyed the relationship I developed with some of the nurses and student nurses.

Outside of the work I was doing, travelling to Nepal was amazing. I met some great people in the Work the World house and we were able to make the most of our time away from the hospital to see the sites in Kathmandu, as well as going to Pokhara for the weekend.

A great opportunity

I would absolutely recommend these placements to other students. It is a great opportunity to visit another country and experience their culture in a way that you could never achieve as a tourist. 

You meet some amazing people, both on placement and in the Work the World house. As the other students also come from a variety of countries, you learn about healthcare in a whole range of places through them. You see ways of working that are so different from home, in both good and bad ways, and that can’t help but be a benefit to you as a student nurse.

My advice to others considering a placement like this would be to find a way to make it happen. It’s not a cheap thing to do, but there are ways to raise money to support you in going. Think carefully about where you’re going and why you want to go there.

You’ll have plenty of time outside of placement to go exploring, so choose somewhere that excites you. Take advice from Work the World about which locations will be best for your area of specialism and what you want to achieve while you’re away.

What’s next?

I’m hoping to work in community mental health nursing when I graduate. This placement experience has made me very grateful for the standard of care we take for granted here. It puts the pressures on the NHS very much in focus.

Fiona completed her final year placement with Work the World.  

For more details visit: www.worktheworld.co.uk