GUEST POST: A day in life of Health Professional in Nepal

Posted on May 22, 2012

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Ever complained about the traffic on your way to work? How would you like to trek to work instead?!

Nepal is full of amazing and dedicated health workers!

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Namaste! I am a public health professional and I work for an NGO coordinating Maternal and Child Health Programs in one of Nepal’s 75 districts. For me, being a health professional in Nepal, where 80% of the population still lives in rural areas, has meant leaving Kathmandu (where I was born, raised and educated) and moving to a district 200km away from my family and friends.

In Nepal, the scarcity of health professionals, such as doctors, pharmacists and nurses, means that the country’s health system (particularly in rural communities) relies heavily on mid-level health workers and Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) to diagnose and treat common health problems. My job is to provide up-to-date training on various maternal and child health topics to these mid-level health workers and FCHVs. I generally make 2 – 3 field trips per week to hard-to-reach villages located in the mountain and hill districts. The rugged terrain always makes it an interesting journey!

My days go something like this:

A typical working day in Nepal begins at 10am, but today I had to conduct some field work in a hard-to-reach village of the district, so, I rushed towards the bus station at 6:00am, picked up a cup of black tea as breakfast and was on route at 6.15am. Today it took a 3.5 hour bus ride (on narrow, steep mountain roads) + 2.5 hours of walking to reach my destination. The village I was visiting could only be reached by foot.

I began my actual work at around 1 pm. The health workers from the village health-post provided an overview of the health status of women and children in the village and we then discussed strategies to improve their health.

The training/workshop began at about 2pm. On the agenda for today was the prevention of various communicable and infectious diseases affecting pregnant woman and children under five years of age. In Nepal, an important strategy of behaviour change is delivering health messages through local FCHVs and health workers, who are known and trusted by local villagers.

Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) provide health care information and services to rural communities in Nepal

At around 3pm, I attended a ‘women’s group’ meeting. These groups are forums where local women meet to discuss health issues in their village. FCHVs use these ‘women’s groups’ to transfer health knowledge from health professionals to the local community. Our FCHVs lead discussions on the early warning signs of pregnancy complications, and the positive effects of iron and vitamin ‘A’ supplementation during pregnancy and after delivery.

Before i knew it, it was 5:00 pm. Time to start my journey back home. Walking the rough terrain in the dark is very dangerous so I decided to spend the night in the village. The families in the village are very kind and many offered me food and a place to sleep for the night.

As the village had no electricity, for entertainment, the villagers put on a campfire and told historical and folk tales.

I did some paper work by candlelight before going to sleep at 10pm.

I miss my family, my friends, my own bed and electricity, but I enjoy my work… where else would I get to walk through a landscape of snow-capped mountains and green valleys to get to work?!

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