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'I wanted to explore what nursing was like outside the UK'

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As a second year adult nursing student I undertook a two week placement based at a Spanish charity’s hospital and school of nursing in India.

For my diversity of care placement I wanted to have the opportunity to explore nursing in a developing country rich in culture and traditions.

My aim was to gain an understanding of how acute and community care of adults differs between India and the UK through observing and participating in care in different health settings.

The charity’s aims are to provide healthcare to the poorest people of the community

From the moment I arrived in India, all the staff and students at the school of nursing were very hospitable making me feel welcome and like one of their own students.

Everyone was so friendly, happy to help, answer my numerous questions and organise a placement specific to my interests and objectives.

It was inspirational to see how the professor at the college tried to inspire passion into her students as she fights to make nursing more highly regarded. The charity’s aims are to provide healthcare to the poorest people of the community.

I spent a week on various wards from female surgical and medical to maternity and intensive care.

I truly admire what the charity is doing with the financial limits they have. They are providing care to people who previously would not receive any.

The second week was spent visiting community projects and the charity’s centre for HIV orphans. Visits included, immunisation clinics, nutritional programmes and health education talks. The charity want to educate communities with the hope that they can increase knowledge and quality of life. With India’s aim to become a developed country by 2020 the influence that the charity has is inspirational.

Changing the way people think can be difficult as it so far embedded in their societies ideologies, but it seems to be working slowly.

The ward was hot and stuffy with frequent power cuts

The district I was visiting is the second poorest in India. The hospital was on a campus, with various buildings including one for infectious diseases, orphanages and schools for deaf and blind children. The appearance of the wards were very plain and bleak with 12 beds all packed closely together, nowhere for the family to sit and no curtains for dignity. The family provide a lot of the patients’ basic care such as washing and feeding. 

Infection control did seem to be lacking despite policy being evident, this was not always implemented and it seemed very inconsistent with nurses not washing their hands unless visually dirty, no sign of gloves or aprons and patients with diseases such as TB walking the wards freely. Medicines and IVs were prepared at the nurses’ station with student nurses being able to prepare these unsupervised.

The ward was hot and stuffy with frequent power cuts. The nursing process and interventions were much the same as in the UK, but as the social system in India is based on castes there was only basic communication between healthcare professionals and patients as traditionally people from higher classes would not speak to those in a lower one.

With no NHS it was sad to hear the doctors telling you that they often could not prescribe the most appropriate medicines as the people could not afford them, delaying recovery times.

Many of the nurses in India wanted to know why I want to be a nurse as nursing had been their parents’ choice, one particular nurse had desperately wanted to be a teacher. This really saddened me as there seemed to be a lack of passion, although they said they had “adapted to nursing and now enjoyed it” and that it was a job with financial security.

I had to be open minded and flexible with my time, constantly pushing myself in order to gain the most out of the opportunities available

This experience has not only aided my professional but also my personal development.

I was able to improve my communication and listening skills through interacting with the nurses, doctors and students. The placement was fantastic providing me with many opportunities to engage in nursing interventions while comparing the differences in healthcare, nursing training, common illnesses and nursing practice between that of the UK and India. It also improved my confidence.

I had to be open minded and flexible with my time, constantly pushing myself in order to gain the most out of the opportunities available and working in a challenging environment (in terms of temperature and infection control!). Through observing the effects of hospitalisation on patients and how care differed between the UK and India it really reinforced the importance of dignity, patient/nurse relationships. This experience has confirmed my enthusiasm and passion for nursing.

I am forever grateful for the great hospitality that all the staff and students both in the school of nursing and hospital showed me during my placement. I would also like to extend my thanks to the school of health and social care at the University of Chester and all my family and friends for the support and encouragement they provided making such an experience possible. I start third year in March and cannot wait!

One year to go and I will be qualified, it has flown by and having experiences such as this I feel it has really enabled me to grow as a nurse.

Cerys David is a second year nursing student at the University of Chester.

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