Christopher was amazed at the increased responsibility he had on placement in Finland, but he found the exchange programme offered far more than practical skills
During second year, I was delighted to be selected to undertake the Erasmus Programme, which enabled me to spend 15 weeks studying in Oulu, Finland.
I was totally amazed at the differences between practice in the UK and in Finland. In the UK, nurses and students aren’t able to cannulate patients before undertaking additional training post-qualification, as this is not taught in pre-registration courses.
But after training and under the supervision of excellent mentors, this programme allowed me to not only routinely cannulate patients, but also to take blood, extubate patients no longer requiring ventilation, catheterise both men and women, and manage and prepare intravenous (IV) medications, as well as numerous other interventions I had not had the opportunity to undertake in the UK.
As a nursing student in Finland, I was treated as a well-respected member of the team. No hierarchy appeared to exist between health professionals at different levels and not once during the entire programme did I hear a nurse say that they did not enjoy their work.
The programme was supported by the host institution Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (DIAK) which offered both practical and theoretical training, including nursing skills and language courses. I had two clinical placements, both in Oulu city center, with practical training in the Critical Care Unit (Teho) at Oulu University Hospital, and practical training in both surgical and theatre nursing at Terveystalo Hospital.
I demonstrated an eagerness to learn and felt that I was given more opportunities and greater responsibilities than on placements in the UK, making me feel more confident and better prepared to be a qualified nurse.
The programme also gave me an insight into a health care system in another EU country.
As well as gaining knowledge and skills and receiving full academic credit for study undertaken during the exchange term, I also feel I have benefitted greatly from increased cultural awareness and improved language skills from learning conversational Finnish (a challenge in itself).
Finland is beautiful during winter, but temperatures of -26 degrees were initially a shock to the system but the thick snow created some spectacular and magical landscapes which will remain in my memory for years to come.
I believe that the experience has increased my employment prospects by providing me with a range of transferable professional and life-skills, which I can further develop during my remaining training and future career.
I would highly recommend the Erasmus scheme to other nursing students, it has the potential to change you in ways you cannot imagine.
I would like to thank Tiina Ervelius and Ari Hyvärinen, the two tutors assigned to offer support throughout the programme. They did an outstanding job, nothing was too much and they ensured regular contact and advice was available.
Christopher Kember is currently undertaking his final year of nurse training at Swansea University and will graduate August 2015