News BlogLatest News From Our Volunteers in Nepal

 

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kimberly Shields

When I started fundraising for this volunteer trip, many friends asked me why I chose to come to Nepal with ARP, and my simple response was, “to step out of my comfort zone.”  I have very limited international travel experience, and I knew that providing healthcare in a developing country for an extended period of time would challenge me on various levels, providing me with an opportunity for both personal and professional growth.

Fast-forward to my 8-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey, en route to Nepal.  As I roamed the airport, I realized that several conversations were happening around me in languages unfamiliar to my English-speaking tongue, and I suddenly felt a loss of connection within an airport full of people.  My ears searched for words of my native language amongst the crowds of people in transit and waiting, but to no avail.  Finally, after some time, I heard English words spoken from the mouth of someone sitting at a table adjacent to mine, and I initiated a conversation with the man who spoke those words that were familiar to me.  Only a few hours had passed since I stepped off the plane, but I was already longing to connect with someone amongst the crowd of foreign travelers.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kimberly Shields

When my flight arrived in Kathmandu, there was a lot of confusion amongst passengers about the process of obtaining a visa.  One older gentlemen was having a problem with the visa machine, and urgently trying to solicit our help in his native tongue, Italian, but no one could understand him.  After my failed attempt at trying to pick out pieces of his language in order to assist him, the Finnish man I had befriended on the plane said to me, “It’s difficult when you don’t have a common language.”

How do I find a way to connect with patients when we don’t share a common language? As a practitioner, we rely heavily upon verbal and body cues from our patients.  Now I’m in a setting where the patients’ verbal cues, and even many of their body cues, are communicated through the interpreter.  The interpreters play a vital role in the patient-practitioner relationship here, but my direct connection to the patient becomes lost through translation, so my challenge has been to find other methods of connecting with patients.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kimberly Shields

I asked myself how I could demonstrate to my patients that I was actively engaged in their treatments.  The first thing that came to mind was through direct eye contact.  When I speak with patients, I make a valiant effort to look directly at them.  At times, it has proven to be more difficult to remember to do than others.  My tendency is to want to look at the interpreters, as they speak the language that’s familiar to my ears, and perhaps, even more so now that we’ve developed a rapport over my time here.  I’ve also noticed that a patient’s tendency is to also look at the interpreter, as they speak their native language.  Many of the patients have been coming to clinic long before I started here, and they too, have developed a rapport with the interpreters, most of whom live within the community.  Yet there are also many moments in which I do make direct eye contact with patients as I’m asking questions or giving advice, and in these moments, my perspective shifts from a practitioner trying to solve a problem, to a person connecting with another person, in spite of our language and cultural differences.

Another means of connecting with my patients has been through touch.  As many of the patients are coming in with pain conditions— usually a by-product of wear and tear from years of manual labor— I use palpation, both as a diagnostic tool and as a means of connection.  I feel for areas of tenderness around the knee, as the patient describes his/her level and quality of pain.  I palpate the back to feel for areas of tightness and tenderness, and any vertebral subluxations or spinal misalignments.  If a patient complains of abdominal pain, I feel for certain signs, such as McBurney’s (appendicitis), and palpate the abdomen as I talk to the patient about symptoms, to get an idea as to which organs are involved.  A couple of weeks ago, I developed a ritual of applying oils for pain on most patients.  Although medically beneficial, I’ve found myself using the oils more so as another avenue of physically connecting with my patients at the end of their treatments.

Acupuncture Relief Project  | Good Health Nepal | Kimberly Shields

My favorite way of connecting with patients is through laughter.  Usually patients are in pain or sick when they enter the clinic.  Sometimes cracking a joke lightens the mood, and makes the patient feel more at ease.  When I feel the stress of getting through my patient load for the day, humor and laughter help to alleviate the pressure.  I find that the days in which I laugh more feel lighter, regardless of the types of ailments I treated that day.  I hope that when I laugh with patients, it enables them to get a glimpse of me beyond my white coat, as I know it allows me to pause for a moment and create a deeper connection beyond that of patient-practitioner— creating that connection with a fellow human being. --- Kimberly Shields

More Articles

  • Rice Harvest in Nepal

    Rice Harvest in Nepal

    I don’t know about you, but I grew up eating rice for basically every meal. My job in the house was to make sure the rice was washed and cooked

    Read More
  • The Faces of My Patients

    The Faces of My Patients

    tamangwomen I looked down to check that I had everything. I wore my white lab coat, new name tag, and had pens in my pocket. My supplies were all laid

    Read More
  • Nepali Women

    Nepali Women

    Cricket highlights are buzzing in my left ear, as I peel apart crinkling, plastic sleeves of a wedding album. My patient’s fourteen-year-old son splits his attention between the static screen

    Read More
  • Naturopathy in Nepal

    Naturopathy in Nepal

    Four years ago I fell in love with the most impoverished district of Nepal called Humla. Though I was there to research malnutrition, I quickly realized the desperate need of

    Read More
  • Human Suffering

    Human Suffering

    Yesterday, I saw an 80 year old patient whose oxygen saturation read 75. In America, anyone under 90% gets an immediate oxygen cannula in their nose. When I first encountered

    Read More
  • Bimdev Says His Daughter’s Name

    Bimdev Says His Daughter’s Name

    Not long ago, I watched a man carefully walk into clinic, cane in hand, right arm and leg trapped in contracture from a stroke. He sat down silently and handed

    Read More
  • Tamang

    Tamang

    She sat there like a queen, or a dictator, regally poised in a red plastic chair, her gold-tasseled nose ring eclipsed by her broad nose. Faded tattoos traced the corners

    Read More
  • The Best Medicine of All

    The Best Medicine of All

    I’m totally overdressed, now sweating in my puffy jacket that only a few hours ago seemed totally adequate to stave off the morning frost. The Nepali middle hills tower and

    Read More
  • My Home Away From Home

    My Home Away From Home

    After living in Bajrabahari at the Acupuncture Relief Project headquarters for 3-1/2 months it has become my home. As I think about my “other home” in Portland Oregon it seems

    Read More
  • This Is A Place I Call “Home”

    This Is A Place I Call “Home”

    Sitting in front a window at the Roadhouse in Thamel, realizing I’ll be leaving Nepal in less than 8 hours, feel like unreal. There is a strong voice inside me

    Read More
  • Heart Wrenching at Times and Exhausting at Others

    Heart Wrenching at Times and Exhausting at Others

    It has been a month now I have been living in Bajrabarahi, Nepal and I am in a nice groove. I am consistently seeing around 15-20 patients a day in

    Read More
  • Walkabouts in Nepal’s Agricultural Nirvana

    Walkabouts in Nepal’s Agricultural Nirvana

    As an American Acupuncture volunteer for Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP) in Nepal, I stepped into an eastern culture that is a distant shadow of my own, regarding the traditional farming

    Read More
  • The Work of Farming

    The Work of Farming

    I’ve been moving around for awhile, but for most of my life I lived in one place. There is much to be said about having roots and feeling at home.

    Read More
  • Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Everyday Acupuncture Podcast

    Here in the west we are used to seeing acupuncture clinics in an urban setting, and it is often sought as an adjunctive therapy used in combination with other modalities.

    Read More
  • Jatra: The goddess

    Jatra: The goddess

    Patients come on a first come, first served basis, often arriving a little before 6am, slipping their appointment cards under a designated stone on the reception window sill. Many will

    Read More
  • Beyond the White Coat

    Beyond the White Coat

    When I started fundraising for this volunteer trip, many friends asked me why I chose to come to Nepal with ARP, and my simple response was, “to step out of

    Read More
  • Baskets and Knees

    Baskets and Knees

    In the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhajra Barahi is made up of steep hills, the slopes of which have been terraced for farming. These plots of rice, cauliflower, mustard, squash,

    Read More
  • A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    A Day in Bajrabarahi: Where There are No Doctors

    When we open the clinic doors at 8:30, there are usually already a handful of patients waiting outside in the crisp morning air. Patients arrive throughout the day. There are

    Read More
  • Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    Ten Years in Nepal: A Tale of Three Brothers

    The day started like most days, a brisk late-autumn morning with a light frost on the ground and clear blue skies. A breakfast of churra (beaten dried rice), chickpeas and

    Read More
  • Death

    Death

    Today's topic: Death! (the author does not pick blog topics; the blog topics choose him) I began thinking about this after hearing that one of our ARP staff members, Tsering,

    Read More
  • Together We Drink Tea

    Together We Drink Tea

    The morning sunlight, through a gap in my curtain reaches onto my bed and teases my skin. I look outside the window to see beautiful blue sky above our mountain

    Read More
  • I love food

    I love food

    Fun fact, my body is 85% digestive tract with the rest being sensory and motor structures that assist me in attaining more food. My genetics are closely related to a

    Read More
  • Return to Baseline

    Return to Baseline

    As part of our long term goals in Nepal, it is our aspiration to train several Nepali born practitioners to serve in our clinics. We have partnered with a small

    Read More
  • Today, I am very happy.

    Today, I am very happy.

    After clinic one day I had the opportunity to experience a wonderful delve into the down country culture of the local folks I've befriended over the last couple weeks. Gunaraj,

    Read More
  • My Bone Problem

    My Bone Problem

    Today I fitted my elderly patient with her (hopefully) semi-permanent shoulder cast. This woman came into the clinic a few weeks ago. I remember treating her knee pain and when

    Read More
  • Worth it

    Worth it

    Having lived my whole life in a developed country, with most of my needs magically looked after for me, it was a cultural shock to see the many inadequacies the

    Read More
  • More than just acupuncture

    More than just acupuncture

    In Bimphedi, a small remote village in the hills south of Katmandu where the acupuncture relief project has a clinic there is also an orphanage. The children that are there

    Read More
  • Trust The Process

    Trust The Process

    It’s been one week in Nepal and 3 days of clinic in Bajra Baraji. I’ve gone through so many emotions and learned so much about practicing primary care in a

    Read More
  • Bookends

    Bookends

    At the beginning of my service with Camp B at Bajra Bahari, my first patient is a 70 year old male with right-side hemiplegia resulting from a stroke. I look

    Read More
  • The Magic of Determination

    The Magic of Determination

    I meet Buddhi for the first time at the end of the second last week of the camp. He had a stroke 5 years ago which affected the mobility of

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

News Archive

2019
(8 articles)

2018
(8 articles)

2017
(15 articles)

2016
(16 articles)

2015
(11 articles)

2014
(12 articles)

2013
(13 articles)

2012
(14 articles)

2011
(10 articles)

2010
(8 articles)

2009
(15 articles)

2008
(9 articles)

Latest Instagram

Follow Us on Facebook

Your Donations Help

In addition to volunteering their time and energy, our practitioners are required to raise the money it takes to support their efforts at our clinic. Please consider helping them by making a tax deductible donation in their name.

DONATE NOW

Support our work

Donate Volunteer Get in Touch

Support Us