Student nurse Sarah was chosen to take part in an Erasmus exchange for three months
I have always had a burning desire to incorporate an Erasmus placement into my nursing degree and I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in an Erasmus exchange for three months. I spent the first semester of this year in Turku, Finland and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I did my nursing placements in theatre, a palliative care ward and a neurological rehabilitation ward. I was assigned English speaking nurse tutors and I have to say they were excellent and went above and beyond to help me achieve my learning objectives. I was concerned before I left that the language barrier would be an obstacle when communicating with the patients however it’s surprising how well you adapt and by the end I found myself speaking a few phrases in Finnish here and there. It also highlighted to me that sometimes actions transcend the need for words for example holding a patient’s hand in their time of need.
My scope of practice was much bigger in Finland and I got to practice intravenous cannulation, undertake drug rounds, set up PCA’S pumps and blood transfusions. It provided me with a whole picture of what it’s actually like to be a staff nurse because before this I really only had pieces of the puzzle. I worked eight hours shifts instead of three 12 hour shifts. I found this very beneficial as I suffered from less fatigue and was more alert during my shifts. This work schedule was advantageous for the patient’s too as there was more continuity in care as the same nurses were caring for the patients throughout the week. Another thing that struck me and was quite inspiring was by how well the Finns comprehend the concept of work-life balance, the Finns really do love their Saunas!
Not only does Erasmus offer the opportunity for professional development but it offers the prospect for personal development too. Travelling was something that I wanted to pursue and being in Finland allowed me to travel to places that I never thought I would ever visit. I visited the beautiful St. Petersburg in Russia and travelled to the North of Finland to Lapland where I met the real Santa Claus and experienced the magical Northern Lights. My favourite memory from Lapland was on the bus journey travelling back from a trip to Norway and the Northern Lights were dancing in the sky above. It is something that will live on in my memory forever, words cannot express how incredible it was.
My Erasmus experience has taught me a lot about myself. Not only am I more confident as a student nurse, I am more confident in myself as a person. I have learnt that I adapt well to new environments and that I am resilient. I am now more open minded and more receptive to different ways of perceiving life. I think that sometimes our thinking can become too conformed so my exchange really encouraged me to “think outside the box”. I also really enjoyed learning about the Finnish culture and it has made me more culturally aware when nursing back in Ireland.
Finland will always hold a special place in my heart and I will definitely return for a visit one day. My advice to anyone who is thinking of doing a nursing exchange is go for it, you will have an amazing time and it is something that will stand to you for the rest of your life and your nursing career!
Sarah Mather-3rd Year Children’s and General Nursing Student-Dublin, Ireland.