Hands-on experience gained in surgical oncology, ear-nose-throat wards

In May of 2017, I left for a medical trip to Nepal through a volunteer organization called Projects Abroad. My placement was held at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital where I received training in surgical oncology and ear-nose-throat surgery.

Nepal is  home to the world’s tallest mountain, the deepest gorge, and a jungle known for bringing back the Asian elephant population. The country also has many hospitals welcoming students from around the world to teach medical techniques, by taking part in procedures and surgeries, as well as Nepali culture and tradition.

After arriving at the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital (BCH), about a 20-minute bus ride from the capital, Kathmandu, there was an undeniable spirit of gratitude and joy from all of the patients waiting on the sidewalk, the stairwells, or in their beds to be treated.

BCH staff were working around the clock to treat as many patients as quickly as they could, yet never lost their smile and positive attitude which brought a sense of hope to their patients. The staff have their patients diagnosed and treatment started with a specialist within a couple of hours.

This hospital had all the units of a typical Canadian hospital but condensed, and I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time in the ear-nose-throat (ENT) and surgical oncology wards. As an undergraduate student, it was exciting to perform aseptic techniques and procedures in an operating room (OR).

After one week in the OR, I had helped the surgeons complete six double mastectomies, two complete hysterectomies, one exploratory laparotomy, one cystoscopy, and three ENT tumour removals. I was also able to learn and perform suturing—a technique to close tissues after an injury or surgery—and assist during surgery.

It was an incredible opportunity to gain the knowledge and hands-on experience that I would never have received here in Canada at this stage of my education. The staff at BCH are always thankful to have extra hands and are happy to impart their knowledge, and love being taught in return.

I was able to bring notes on their aseptic techniques and conditions for scrubbing into surgery with me, and I wrote them a recommendation guide before I left on future changes that could be made if additional funding is received.

Quality medical care is often hard to find in many parts of the world, so projects like these give you a new appreciation for how easily we can access it in Canada. Practicing medicine overseas will open so many doors for you to learn new skills, techniques, and patient care in different cultures. It also gives you an opportunity to learn about yourself and what type of medical practice you are passionate about. BCH and Nepal provided the perfect environment for self-discovery, academics, and adventure going into my final year of my undergraduate studies.

For more information about Projects Abroad and trips like Jenna’s, you can visit their website.