American Nurse in Nepal

Joe Niemczura, on working in Nepal-teaching nursing at Tansen Nursing School.

Mission Hospital in Tansen is run by United Missions to Nepal, the first Christian NGO allowed to operate in Nepal. I teach nursing at the University of Hawaii and in 2007, I made my first trip to Nepal to teach nursing at Tansen Nursing School (TNS). In Tansen I taught bedside clinical skills, working side-by-side with nurses and doctors treating actual patients, pretty much exactly what I do with nursing students in Hawaii.

Most videshi nurses that come to Nepal do not have a background in critical care, management, or teaching as I do, and so I was able to look at the way the hospital was run with a degree of insight and sophistication that other newly-arrived videshis may not have brought. My book “The Hospital at the End of the World” describes my first trip to Nepal and I have now made four trips.

Oprah Winfrey, the TV host, was once interviewing a famous author named Toni Morrison, about her most recent book. Oprah said “Tell me about your book –  if you just had one paragraph to let everyone in the TV audience know what your book was about, what would you say?” And Toni replied: “Honey, if I was able to say it in just one paragraph, I wouldn’t have bothered writing a book!”

The same applies with respect to Nepal health care issues. Culture, geography, politics and globalization have worked to create the situation today. The single biggest factor which challenges the system is lack of money. The Nepali doctors and nurses and intelligent enough, hard working enough, dedicated enough; but do not have the resources in place.

Even simple things, such as adequate textbooks, become difficult to obtain. I have worked with SNEHA, the Nepal Society of Honolulu, to bring up-to-date nursing textbooks to Nepal, and we have established the best library of nursing books in Nepal, a resource for all Nepali nurses. Lalitpur Nursing Campus allows all students from other schools to use this resource. If you are returning to Nepal, why not bring a book to donate to LNC or one of the Universities?

This summer I am in Kathmandu. I invite you to read about the 2011 trip in ‘real time’ on my blog, “Kathmandu Critical Care 2011.



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