Motivated by a visit to Kathmandu, Tina Bryce McKay was looking for a way to help improve patient experiences in Nepal. When a suitable role came up with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, Tina jumped at the chance to volunteer for 12 months at the Kirtipur Hospital.
As Nurse Educator at the 150 bed community hospital, Tina's role was to increase the practical skills of the nursing staff. Yet Tina discovered early on in her volunteer assignment that her previous research had only half prepared her to understand the needs of patients and nurses in Nepal.
"I figured that the only way forward was to observe the day-to-day running of the hospital, attend rounds and handover and see nurses actually practicing their profession," she says.
Tina set out to speak to as many health practitioners as possible, both inside the hospital and from the wider health community in Kathmandu.
Bringing together the medical community
Tina soon found herself running education sessions on all kinds of topics.
"I have worked with not only the nurses, but doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists and any other hospital staff interested in the skills I am teaching" she says. "I have networked with the School of Social Work to bring social workers to Kirtipur, and counselling services, burns services and Nepali entrepreneurs, who are able to offer a sustainable supply of medical equipment for the hospital."
"I have been able to teach classes at the Kathmandu Model Hospital School of Nursing, as well as meeting visiting midwives, doctors and dignitaries."
Tina was involved in setting up the Intensive Care Unit at Kirtipur and training staff in ICU skills, helping to establish basic procedures and practices for nurses. With the assistance of a small NGO, CCNepal, she also helped train doctors and nurses in basic and advanced life support skills.
"At first I thought that any improvements I was able to make would be a huge accomplishment," remarks Tina. "But as I look back now on the things I have done and have been able to initiate, I am very happy."
Support from Australia
Tina has been supported by Interplast, an Australian organisation working in partnership with hospitals in 17 Asia Pacific countries, to provide surgical services to those who could otherwise not afford or access them. The NGO has been working in Nepal since 2006, specialising in advanced reconstructive surgical training, and nurse and allied health education.
Jess Hill, Program Manager from Interplast says: "Tina's assignment was developed to provide longer- term support of nurse education at Kirtipur Hospital, working alongside many of our local partners."
Interplast was able to share knowledge of the hospital with Tina and send her valuable teaching resources.
"It was an ideal opportunity to provide additional support to areas which we have been working on for a number of years," Jess said.
Tina feels she has learnt a lot during her volunteer assignment. She has been particularly inspired by the women she has worked alongside.
"I have been encouraged by little triumphs and have felt pride as I watched my shy, timid and unsure nursing staff become confident professionals who are sure of themselves and the importance of their role."