International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

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Promoting Hospice & Palliative Care Worldwide

International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

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"Promoting Hospice and Palliative Care Worldwide"


2004; Volume 5, No 10, October



Hospice Connection in the Himalayas
Mary Stengel, RN, CHPN,
Hospice of North Idaho in the US.


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In the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, where families take care of their own, there is a growing Hospice work to assist them in caring for their dying loved ones. Hospice Nepal was started about five years ago, by Drs. Gongal and Vaidya and others, first as a hospital ward, then branching out to their own eight bed inpatient facility and to home visitation teams.

Our family lived in Nepal during the early 80’s and during our last visit this past January, we were anxious to visit the growing work of Hospice Nepal. We were excited to wind our way through the narrow streets of Kathmandu to find their clean and attractive compound. The peaceful atmosphere there seemed like a sanctuary amid the bustling capital city of approximately 2 million people. Dr. Gongal welcomed us and took us on rounds, introducing us to patients and nurses. I brought them greetings from our chapter of Hospice in North Idaho where I have worked as a nurse for the past 5 years, and presented them with a picture of our staff and a financial gift. He seemed delighted with the gifts and told us that Hospice Nepal works on a donation basis and patients are not charged for their care.

I visited the nurses and patients several times a week and felt very welcome. I found the nurses well trained and delightful. They were eager to talk about their work and asked questions of “how we do things”. I was impressed with the dedication of the nurses and I encouraged them in the importance of their work.

Dr. Gongal, Dr. Vaidya, the Hospice nurses and I met and exchanged questions and ideas. I presented them with some written material that we use and have found helpful in our Hospice. Dr. Gongal encouraged the nurses to “get more into the patients” by listening to them share who they are and what they are feeling. Dr. Vaidya mentioned that it is good to hear what other Hospices are doing and to use the things that are helpful and will work in their culture. He teaches medical and nursing students in the Kathmandu valley, which includes hospice and palliative care.

After returning from our trip, I shared my experience with Hospice of North Idaho and they wanted to continue a relationship with the work in Nepal. We ordered the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care to be sent to them. We decided we would like to send a financial gift to Hospice Nepal so our staff signed up to have a small amount ($1-3) withheld from each bimonthly check. Our Administration matched what the staff gave and as a result we can send $366 dollars quarterly to our Sister Hospice Nepal.

In the months since our trip, Drs. Gongal and Vaidya, as well as one of the nurses Anusha Sharma, have kept us informed of the progress of Hospice Nepal. The inpatient unit is staying full; one of the local hospitals is starting a Hospice wing and has sent some of their nurses to be trained by the Hospice Nepal staff. They are in the process of training volunteer nurses to give hospice and palliative care to patients who live in their areas. The Hospice nurses will visit the patients close to the inpatient facility by bike and motorbike. They also have a plan to expand community service CohoN (Community Hospice Nepal) as they are able to train more staff and acquire a jeep for transport. Anusha Sharma, one of the Hospice nurses, writes “I too go for home visits these days. I enjoy home visits because we can give more advice to the family members and we can learn more from their (patient’s) life time experiences.”

Dr. Vaidya reports “We are also sending two of our staff nurses to Callicut, India for six weeks of palliative care training.”

Dr. Gongal wrote “We believe this (support and encouragement) to be a blessing from you all that will encourage us to continue to work hard to help the unfortunate people here. Your generosity touches us and our patients in a very special way …your effort to help us not only helps us in our finances, but just as importantly, keeps our morale high and helps us in our perseverance to establish Hospice on the ground and in peoples’ minds and hearts”

We are not sure where this” Sistering” between Hospice of North Idaho and Hospice Nepal will lead, but we are excited to have the connection? We have been thrilled to hear how they have expanded in these last months and our hope is that soon we can take some of our staff on a trip to Nepal where they can have a Himalayan adventure and a cross-cultural Hospice experience.

Click on photos to view larger
Hospice Nepal with friends and family of patients sitting
on the lawn shows some of the peaceful simplicity.

Picture of patient “Tulsey”. Dr. Gongal on the left, a friend
of the patient in the middle and the author on the right.