My eye-opening pharmacy placement in Nepal – Jack Gilbert

Thursday 27 June 2019

Jack Gilbert
Jack is a 3rd-year Pharmacy student at RGU. He recently travelled to Pokhara in Nepal on a four-week pharmacy placement, organised by Work the World, to see the differences between how pharmacy is practiced in the UK and in a low-resource hospital.

Before coming to Pokhara, I didn’t know a lot about Nepal. I only knew that I wanted to travel to a completely different part of the world and learn how local pharmacists delivered services to patients in an under-resourced setting.

I was surprised to find out that, as a discipline, pharmacy was relatively new in Nepal. The first six graduates only got their bachelor degrees in the late 90s. I quickly discovered that the role of the hospital pharmacist in Nepal surrounded dispensing and pharmacovigilance.

The hospital staff were really welcoming, and keen to include us in assembling prescriptions and on morning ward rounds with junior doctors. We saw some fascinating cases like snake bites and instances of organophosphate poisoning.

It was interesting to see the types of drugs prescribed and how they were used. Antibiotic use, for example, seemed excessive when comparing it to the guidelines we followed at home.

Another big difference from home was the presence of an inpatient pharmacy. This was where families purchased drugs that had been prescribed by doctors, and then brought them back up to the wards to be administered.

One of my most surprising learnings was that a person, literally any person, could open a community pharmacy with only 72 hours of training. Almost anything could be purchased with neither prescription or counselling.

Local pharmacists were keen to hear about the varied clinical opportunities that a Scottish pharmacy graduate had. They even asked us to present to their current BPharm students on what we knew about pharmacy and patient counselling in Scotland.

I also undertook Work the World’s optional Village Healthcare Week. Living with a family up in the Himalayan foothills, I loved immersing myself in rural Nepalese life.

I even found I could utilise my skills as a pharmacy student in the local health post. I took blood pressure measurements and even helped to diagnose minor illnesses such as scabies.

During the month I spent in Pokhara, I made unforgettable memories with amazing students from all over the world. In the afternoons and evenings after placement, we explored Pokhara. We visited monasteries, waterfalls, and caves, and spent time just wandering around Lakeside, exploring shops, bars and restaurants.

One weekend, we hiked up Sarangkot for beautiful views over the city. We stayed the night and paraglided down into the valley the next morning. It was breathtaking.

We spent another weekend in Chitwan National Park. We took a boat down the river and went on an elephant safari, getting up close to animals like rhinos, deer, and crocodiles.

My advice if you’re considering a trip like this is to take the leap with an open mind. Take yourself outside of your comfort zone — you’ll thank yourself for it.

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