Who knew three months could go by so quickly! After twelve weeks of completing my final practicum in Helsinki, Finland I have now returned home to Regina, Saskatchewan. However, I can honestly say I have left a piece of my heart back in Finland and can understand now why it was declared the best country in the world in 2010!
As a student, I was fortunate to practice in three very different areas, which gave myself a well-rounded clinical experience and perspective of the Finnish healthcare system. My acute care placement began first at Naistenklinikka, a Women's Hospital, where I was on a post-partum unit working alongside midwives. I then went to the Burn Unit at Töölön sairaala, which I highly regard as potentially my best learning experience to date. I spent my community placement at a Health Centre in a Northwestern suburban area of Helsinki. The demographics of this area were very interesting, as the residents here possessed the lowest education level and subsequently the lowest socioeconomic status in all of Helsinki, thus this experience very much highlighted the social determinants of health for me.
My transition from Canada to this new country and new culture was quite easy, which I credit to my Finnish tutors, Miikka and Laura. Helsinki welcomes thousands of exchange students each year, and Metropolia University, which I was affiliated with, has a great program where Finnish students will select a handful of exchange students and act as their "tutor" during their stay. These two helped me navigate around the city, through utilizing the public transport system, which consisted of buses, trams and the metro. They also acted as my translators and they sure came in handy when grocery shopping, as everything is of course in Finnish! There were three other students from the U of S who also came to Helsinki, one of which I shared a studio apartment with in central Helsinki, known as Kamppi. (Side note - location was prime!) It was great to have familiar faces (and familiar accents) around and to share this experience with fellow NEPS students.
At first it was overwhelming to be surrounded by the Finnish language, but through my preceptors and tutors, I managed to really expand my Finnish vocabulary, even though I continued to receive some giggles when I used it - my pronunciation never reached that of a true Finn! There was A LOT to see and do in Helsinki and there were always social events and trips planned for exchange students. I was fortunate enough to travel to Finland's surrounding countries: Russia, Sweden and Estonia and ended my time in Helsinki by going up north to Lapland. This was an amazing week with other exchange students where we went husky dog sledding, saw the Northern Lights, visited a reindeer farm and took a day trip to Norway, where I went swimming in the Arctic Ocean! It was definitely worth the chills, because it was followed by relaxing in a wood-burning sauna - a very Finnish activity. All these trips really added to the cultural aspect of this experience for me and allowed myself to meet and interact with students from all over the world, which was, well … incredible!
Before participating in this international nursing practicum, Finland was a country I never anticipated myself traveling to - now I am trying to figure out when it is that I can return. I strongly recommend any student contemplating engaging in an practicum abroad to take advantage of this opportunity for your final practicum - I can guarantee you will not regret it!
Kiitos! (Thank you!)