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Nursing in Nepal

I am not sure how to describe all of the emotions I experienced in January this year when I volunteered as a nurse in Nepal during university semester break.

Feelings of excitement, and nervousness came over me as the days crept closer to flying out of Australia, not knowing what to expect for the next month.

Nursing in Nepal was definitely a challenge.

I went over to Nepal knowing that I would not be able to make a drastic change to the health system and the conditions in which people live. I did go over there with an open mind, hoping that an opportunity to educate would become available.

The dust and pollution in Kathmandu was horrible. I have never had an issue with my asthma before, but breathing here became difficult quite quickly and I had to wear my neck buff as a mask. It made a lot of sense when I learnt that asthma and COPD were the two main issues seen in Nepal after experiencing it myself.

I spent two weeks in beautiful Pokhara. Sadly most of this time I was sick in bed with a lovely parasite that decided to hang around and cause me grief, but needing to look at the brighter side of things, I got to experience firsthand the private health system and thus was able to compare the care given to me as an international private patient, and the practice and care given by the doctors and nurses of the Emergency Department in a local public hospital.

By the end of these two weeks, even though I already appreciated the health care system we have here in Australia, nursing in Nepal really put this into perspective, seeing how truly lucky we are to live in Australia. I understood coming into a third world country that supplies would be limited, but seeing equipment reused such as syringes and needles, oxygen tubing that was no longer transparent and discoloured, ‘sterile’ gloves being dried out after they had been washed, this was really upsetting to watch. Mould on the walls, dried blood stains on the emergency trolleys and bed sheets changed only once a week (just imagine what could possibly have been spilt, oozed, dripped onto those sheets and left there for the next patient to lie on) were just a few of the overseen things not deemed urgent to clean, which I completely understand being in such a country, but it definitely was a shock to begin with.

I was also shocked when they decided not to use a defibrillator in the Emergency Department (ED) and when they chose not to follow policies and procedures which were available within the hospital. I somehow wished I could change this practise.

The ED had recently implemented a triage system which was great to see, but with care not being free in the public system, this is where problems began. A patient would present in the ED, the doctor would assess the patient and then write a list of all the equipment, medication and scans that were required to be paid for and collected prior to the patient receiving treatment. If the patient was not able to physically get the equipment themselves, family present would help out otherwise the patient would lie there on a bed and not be treated until they were able to get the equipment needed. This was hard to watch, having some patients lying in pain and not being attended to. Pain relief was found not to be a necessity either – I saw stitches applied to facial wounds of the Nepali people who did not even flinch. It was very hard to watch a woman’s face post childbirth when she had to get stitches after her vaginal birth. The pain in her face was heartbreaking.

There is so much more I could tell you about this hospital placement. The other nurses who were on the trip with me were placed in the surgical ward, which had a burns unit.

The next two weeks for me were a whole lot more enjoyable. Living with two Nepali families, one in the village of Jwentar and the other in Ghimireguan, each day education was given in primary and secondary schools, and to women’s groups covering topics including male and female sexual reproductive changes, sex, fertilisation and uterine prolapses.

The smiles and laughter of the children really made my trip special. They were just so happy with the little they had. I won’t forget each person who made this trip an unforgettable one.

It honestly is so much more difficult to write down my experiences in Nepal, wanting to share with you every single moment. It was eye opening, heartbreaking, joyful and every single other emotion. Now back in Australia, there is always a moment each day that I think back to my time over there, wondering how each family, patient, orphan I saw is going.

Warmest Regards,




  1. Kev Gommers Apr 18 2017

    Wow Bernadette what a challenging journey you had in Nepal . Things like this change your practice for the better eh !

  2. Joanna von Moger Oct 28 2018

    Hi Bernadette this sounds amazing – i would love to know how you went about volunteering/nursing in Nepal? Did you do it through a program or company?

  3. Sabitri Giri Tiwari May 26 2019

    Hi there,
    Nice to listen from you about the real context of nursing practice in Nepal. I am a RN from Nepal and studying Master of Nursing in Australia now. I want to do something in Nepal after completing my studies. I would really appreciate you if you can help me to gain some special training/ courses while I am here in Australia. This would be a great opportunity for me to serve as a nurse. Thank you.

  4. Barsha Karki Jul 28 2020

    Being Nepalese,I am glad to read this experience of yours in Nepal and sorry to hear that most of them were frustrating but one thing that upset me is when you said reusing of syringe and gloves.I agree on all of the other stuff but not with this because I am also a registered nurse here we never do that. This is strictly against the ethic of nursing here. I don’t know in which hospital you were but that was little upsetting for me because you generalized it and i don’t want false information on internet.
    I didn’t mean to hurt your feeling and I appreciate that you choose our country.
    THANK YOU!!!!!