June 17, 2019, by sleatherland

Global Learning Partnership – reflection

In this week’s blog post, nursing student, Annette, reflects on her participation in the Global Learning Partnership in Nepal.

I’ve recently returned from a month in Nepal, working with local Nepalese students collaboratively as part of a multidisciplinary team. We set out to achieve our aims and outcomes set around healthcare, these were implemented in a rural community called Dhungkharka, where the health inequalities are wider compared to the rest of the population.

In Nepal, I had to integrate myself into the community to gain a good understanding and awareness of the culture, values and beliefs. Cultural awareness is the foundation of communication, it involves the ability to stand back from ourselves and to become aware of our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Dhungkharka had a higher prevalence of oral health diseases within the community and the oral health team revealed a low compliance with dental visits and a general lack of knowledge regarding the links between general and oral health and the significance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

This year there were seven international students including myself and 11 local students split into three groups to focus on three different aspects of health; chronic disease, women’s health and oral health. I was part of the oral health group. We studied at Kathmandu University getting to know each other so we could work together learning about global health, health promotion, cultural awareness, leadership and the UN Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG’s). This is where we identified our follow-up evaluation from last year’s programme, our project objectives for our targeted population and what interventions were to be used to achieve these. Our project objectives were; to identify the barriers and health challenges in Dhungkharka, to introduce a multidisciplinary approach to improve quality-of-life, translate knowledge into action for community contribution and to build the capacity for potential leaders to empower sustainable change for the community. We implemented these project objectives into our project planning to achieve successful interventions when working in the community as a team. This included the contribution and guidance from a local dentist at Kathmandu University, this University was attached to the local hospital like the University of Nottingham and Queen’s Medical Centre.

Before the start of the programme I felt I had a brief knowledge about the GLP and the UN SDG’s but I still felt very uncertain about what to expect when I arrived, even after research prior to applying and completing the preparation work before departure. I was also undecided on what to bring as I was unfamiliar with local weather, culture and expectations, even after more research and communication with the project officer but I was trusting that things would become clear eventually. During the programme the local students were very welcoming, accepting and guided us everywhere. Communication was a big part of our collaboration and cultural awareness was especially important in reducing language barriers in order to integrate efficiently. I felt happy that during the programme, there was a lot of walking and communication and our community of friends became more like a family, this was key for a good quality of life to increase health, happiness and well-being for each other, as there was not a lot of personal space and all problems and emotions were faced together as a group.

After the programme, it was very hard to leave, we achieved a great report and interventions within the community around oral health and I learned so much regarding oral health and about different cultures and how this impacts the effectiveness of heath care education and how to overcome these barriers. On a personal note, I made some lifelong friends who became more like a family to me and an excellent community, this group of individuals have great traditions that they follow, and they are big-hearted. I learnt so much about global health, the GLP and the UN SDG’s, my knowledge and insight has been extended and will allow me to grow personally and as a health professional it has allowed me to improve my communication skills, understand others priorities and break down barriers.

My experience overseas allowed me to learn the value of being out of your comfort zone so I could see things from a different perspective by experiencing health care in a different culture. This increased my growth as an individual as well as a health professional, it increased my awareness and understanding of cultural competency. Being part of the GLP was amazing. I learnt so much around global health and the UN SDG’s, how essential global health is to every country and how much the experience has benefited us especially when living in the multicultural society. There are so many different beliefs, values and perspectives that need to be recognised and acknowledged when making any decisions in the community, particularly in healthcare, in order to respect the individual’s needs as well as improving their health and well-being. Learning about the UN SDG’s was overwhelming as it can be a confusing concept, there is so much involved,  I am glad to know that these global initiatives have been put in place for a while now and to know that’s it is everyone’s job including the government, local and global citizens to reach these SDG’s and that we, as students are just a small part of the whole programme, we are the key to a better future.

Posted in Elective placementsInternational