- Donna Willome, NP- Director of Student Health Services
In 2010 Dr. Marie O’Toole, then the chair of Nazareth’s Nursing Department, invited me go to Finland to teach Health Assessment at Laurea University in Vantaa, Finland. Laurea is a partner with Nazareth in the Atlantis FIPSE Program for transcultural nursing. The third college is Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary. So on April 8, 2011, with Kevin Worthen’s and Karen Jones’ permission (it was April, after all) I jetted off to Helsinki, Finland with Peggy Wirth, adjunct Naz nursing faculty and also a nurse practitioner.
After passing through 7 time zones, we were greeted at the airport by 2 Nazareth Students, Michelle DeMartino and Naomi Wallnau, who took us on a bus to our residence hall, populated during the week by young men and women studying to be police officers! We had our own room and bath, internet, a sauna in the basement and the train to Helsinki outside our door. We spent our first day enjoying the cosmopolitan city.
On Monday morning, we walked to Laurea which was less than 10 minutes away. In Finland, students do not stay in residence halls- instead, most commute from home. Don’t worry, Jane Kelly, they have fun anyway. The week we were there, they were having sports day, indoor climbing and a chicken run! And college is "free"; well, it is part of the "cradle to grave" care in Scandinavia. The college building in Vantaa was one of 7 branches of Laurea around the Helsinki area. It was a contemporary grey building with lots of natural light (necessary for their dark long winters) and careful security.
Tuula Ikonen was our host and faculty associate: she fed us breakfast and lunch at the cafeteria daily, made sure we had classrooms, copied forms and introduced us all around.
Our class consisted of 12 students who were delightful and eager to learn. They were from Finland, U.S., Hungary, Spain and one originally from Somalia. While exchange programs for nursing students are new in the U.S., they are well established in the European Union.
We taught a course, usually a semester long, in one week. From a rough outline given to us, I designed a course where we taught health assessment through the main body systems, showed a video of an exam, demonstrated an exam, and had them examine each other. On Friday the students paired up and did the whole exam while Peggy or I encouraged and taught a little more. We gave certificates of completion, a goody bag and maple sugar candy to each!
We experienced the local culture as well: dinner (reindeer!) with the nursing faculty at Mumolos (Grandmas), a ferry across the gulf of Finland to Estonia, a day with one of the Finn student’s parents who took us to a historic site for lunch—Porvoo—and to their lovely home. I loved the swift quiet trains to downtown Helsinki; the Stockmann’s department store reminiscent of Sibley’s past; the coffee (did you know the Finns consume the most coffee per capita in the world?); the sauna (pronounced sona, with emphasis on the first syllable), and the plethora of types of licorice. It was a wonderful experience.