Swiss Exchange: New Perspectives in Healthcare

15 September 2017

This summer, I headed to Lausanne, Switzerland, for an exchange programme at the School of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (Haute Ecole de Sante Vaud), and the La Source Institute and High School of Health (Institut et Haute Ecole de la Santé La Source).

The training ground for undergraduate and post-graduate nurses in the canton of Vard in French-speaking Western Switzerland, the Schools hold an annual Summer University Programme to give visiting students a flavour of the Swiss care system, and allow them to exchange perspectives on nursing practices and cultures with their Swiss hosts.

This year, about 40 of us attended the programme from 9 June to 13 July. We hailed from the NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies in Singapore, as well as institutions of higher learning in India, China, Chile, Hong Kong, Korea, and USA.

Over several weeks, I gained an insight into the Swiss perspective on the programme’s twin themes – disaster nursing planning and nursing care among vulnerable populations – through academic programmes, clinicals and tours of Swiss healthcare institutions. I also had the privilege of interacting with the staff, students and faculty members who hosted, briefed and lectured us.

One of them was Professor Christian Brokatzky, whose lecture, “Vulnerability on a psychological point of view” left a deep impression on me. He delivered an important lesson in vulnerability in nursing. Often viewed as a liability, vulnerability is an essential aspect of living, he said. It is a “doorway to wholeness” as it allows one to explore her inner resources and evaluate her beliefs to adapt to the trying circumstances.

The writer learnt about the Swiss education and healthcare systems from her counterparts in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Another stressful but exciting initiation into disaster nursing came via a workshop, which simulated an earthquake’s impact on nursing response at a mountaintop resort. In the exercise, I had to assess the situation in handling a patient with a history of paranoia, a man who was critically ill and a woman who suffered from an acute illness. The gist of disaster nursing is quick thinking – the ability to assess what is going on and deciding what to do in a matter of minutes. The dry run taught me the importance of communication.

My summer sojourn in Switzerland has been an eye-opening experience, exposing me to new healthcare perspectives that I can apply in my studies and future career. It was not all work and no play, however. The beauty of the city of Lausanne and Switzerland captured me and took my breath away, especially during my two-hour train journey from Zurich to Lausanne, where I witnessed never-before-seen green patches filled with plantations, herds of cows with their bells and the spectacular view of Lake Geneva. Switzerland is indeed stunning and the go-to place for nature lovers, and this trip has helped the Singaporean in me to reconnect with nature – learning to love the sun a little more and enjoying picnics in the park.

My summer sojourn in Switzerland has been an eye-opening experience, exposing me to new healthcare perspectives that I can apply in my studies and future career.

Interaction with locals has also allowed me to forge unforgettable friendships and experience Swiss culture – and rekindled my love for cheese! Lastly, while the month in Europe has made me fall for the beauty that this part of the world offers, it has also helped me better appreciate my Asian background.

- Article by Lim Jae Young, Year 4, BSc (Nursing)