From Elective Reviews - India - Duncan Hospital, Bihar, 2004- Louise Trower, nursing elective
Duncan Hospital is part of the Emmanuel Hospital Association, and was set in up in 1930 by Dr Cecil Duncan a Scottish missionary doctor. It treats many patients on a daily basis from India and Nepal.
We arrived in Bihar in the dark after a very long (28 hour) train ride, feeling tired and a little disorientated. When we got off the train a man from Duncan Hospital fortunately met us instantly. As we drove away in the jeep, I felt nervous and began to wonder what lay ahead for the next four weeks.
Raxaul itself was unlike anywhere else I had been. The roads were a complete chaos of trucks, cars and cyclists swerving and beeping at one another. Whilst it wasn't an uncommon sight to see cattle walking up the middle of the road against the traffic. It was a relief to arrive at the hospital and be shown to the Western guesthouse within the hospital grounds where the long train ride despite it being cold, and then settling into my new surroundings.
Fortunately we were given a choice of which wards we wanted to spend some time on. I opted for one week on paediatrics and two weeks in labour room. My week on paediatrics was challenging and a great learning experience. Nervously attaching myself to a second year nursing student, I followed her every step during the first shift and had to get used to doing manual blood pressures, having been so used to pressing a button and letting the machine do the rest! The way in which medical resources were used and reused really struck me and how much we take sterile equipment for granted. The biggest challenge I faced that week, in terms of nursing was laying out the body of a nine year old boy who barely looked five years old.
My two weeks in the labour room were fantastic. It was a great learning opportunity to practically fulfil some of my midwifery hours, as part of my nursing degree. Having never done any sort of maternity placement I wasn't quite sure as to what I was letting myself in for. I stood nervously on my first morning watching the first delivery I had ever seen. I went through a very steep learning curve over the two weeks from merely observing to actually assisting and delivering babies!
The main social problem, which I saw face to face whilst at Duncan Hospital, was the poverty. Many patients that were seen were completely illiterate, and had little or no money. One of ways in which Duncan Hospital was helping with this was through community health projects. I was fortunate enough to spend a day with one of the community health teams, who were going in to villages and educating the villages. These projects had been having a real impact on improving the health education of these people, and therefore preventing illness such as diarrhoea.
I was living in the 'Western guesthouse' whilst I was at Duncan. We ate English breakfast and supper and Indian lunch. The guesthouse was extremely spacious and I was lucky enough to have a room to myself, with a huge bathroom, that was so big I used it for skipping into get some exercise! It was so nice not to have television for four weeks. This gave me plenty of opportunities to read, write and build up some really good friendship with the nurses.
Duncan Hospital was such a close-knit community within the confines of the hospital. I soon got to know others and was invited round to the nurse's hostel after work to play basketball with them in the blazing heat. My faith was stretched and challenged whilst at Duncan, through having to completely rely on God for everything, particularly when going into an 'unknown' situation whether on or off the wards. There were devotions every morning, which took place in the hospital grounds for all the staff, and patient's relatives were welcome. It was the norm to pray before each shift with the nurses and before any operation. On Monday evenings there was English bible study and an English service on Sunday evenings. There were plenty of opportunities to serve whilst there and lead bible studies. It was just so encouraging to work in an environment that was so centred on Christ.
From a nursing point of view I had the opportunity to develop my existing skills, but also have a go at things I had never done before. The contrast in resources was evident particularly in terms of equipment. The most high-tec piece of equipment I saw whilst there was an ultrasound machine in the labour room and a pulse oximeter in paediatrics.
My nursing elective in India completely exceeded all my expectations both from a nursing point of view and most importantly spiritually. I found myself being humbled whilst I was there, and challenged to rethink my priorities when I returned home. I found a new excitement and desire to read my bible daily. I am extremely grateful to the organisation that so generously help to fund my nursing elective.
As we departed the hospital to go to the station in one of the hospital jeeps, we were both prayed for by one of the missionaries. As we drove away in the jeep along the bumpy, muddy roads, waving goodbye to the friends I had made I felt a sense of sadness at what I was leaving behind, but also an overwhelming sense of excitement and encouragement at what I had learnt during my four weeks in India.