We talk to Liz McCall, who is a voluntary community outreach nurse in reproductive health with VSO in Gamghadi, Nepal.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I wanted to work with people and at school had an interest in life sciences and health.
Where did you train?
Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh.
What was your first job in nursing?
Leith Hospital, Edinburgh. I was relief staff nurse on night duty.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I strive to give 100% at work and my expectations of others are often unrealistic - particularly in developing countries where education is of a lower standard. The challenge then is to be effective as an educator and motivator.
From whom have you learnt most in your nursing career?
All the patients and families I have met. They are our greatest critics and if we listen to their feedback we can learn about ourselves as care providers.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Be prepared to work hard, put the patient and family at the centre of care and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
What keeps you awake at night?
Willing my ageing brain to retain the local language and thinking of ways to be creative with non-verbal communication.
What made you want to become a volunteer nurse?
I always wanted to experience healthcare in a developing country and share my skills and knowledge. I also see this as a chance to reflect on my practice in the UK and appreciate the care that the NHS provides.
What is most challenging about volunteering abroad?
Extremes of temperature, limited food choices, struggling to learn a new language when you are not a natural linguist, isolation, lack of privacy and having to accept that water, electricity and the internet are to be enjoyed when available but are actually luxuries.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your time as a nurse volunteer?
The challenges I mentioned are balanced with new cultural experiences, learning about local traditions and how these impact on health and being accepted by the local people. But I feel a real sense of achievement when a Nepali nurse learns a skill from me and uses it to improve a patient’s care. It may be very small like helping a new mother to breastfeed but it is meaningful.
What job would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I’d like to be retired - but doing more volunteering.
What do you think makes a good nurse?
An ability to step into another’s shoes and consider their feelings.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I’d make healthcare accessible to all on a worldwide scale.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The district health officer here is a very busy man whom I greatly admire. To have an hour of his time without there being any interruptions would be amazing as he has a lot of valuable knowledge and many insights about healthcare to share.