Enthusiastic Swiss nursing students in Japan

Ms. Vanessa Bergonzoli and Ms. Kelly Di Nucci are the first students from Haute Ecole de Santé La Source, Lausanne, to visit Japan as part of an exchange program between La Source and the Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing, Tokyo. Delighted by their stay, they kindly agreed to share their enthusiasm in this blog post.

October 12, 2015 at 07:30 PM. After a long 15-hour flight we finally landed at Haneda Airport.

«Welcome to sunny Tokyo».1

We are two 3rd year bachelor students currently in our senior year in a nursing school in Switzerland. Passionate by Japan, by its wonderful culture and the beauty of its landscapes, we are lucky to have been selected for a three-week immersion training in the Japanese health system. Thanks to the partnership developed between the Haute Ecole de Santé La Source (Lausanne) and the Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing, the doors opened and a dream came true. This international exchange program offered us the possibility to discover a health system that is unique by its organization, philosophy and values.

We had been planning this trip for several months. For us, it was a unique opportunity to experience a professional training in the Land of the Rising Sun. Our Summer University program started on the 19th of October 2015. At our arrival, the Japanese Red Cross College gave us an amazingly warm welcome, in the presence of the Director, the Deputy Director, the teachers and the students.

4The immersion was intense directly from the start. In a city that has the highest urban density, discipline and respect had a very powerful impact on us, as we instantly embraced the Japanese way of life. We were part of very big crowds, discovering culinary specialities and adapting to the local traditions and manners. The trains and the subway system were our best allies to discover most of the parts of Tokyo. From the temples and giant Buddha of Kamakura to the hipster quarter of Schinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya with its giant screens and crossroads, we tried not to miss one single inch of the city. Each visit and experience left us speechless and thoughtful. The mystery and beauty that comes from the colourful and fascinating temples, the serenity of the different gardens, put us in a state of contemplation. We were amazed to see how technological progresses have been perfectly integrated in the current infrastructure. Large new buildings are close to small typical houses, temples and wonderful gardens.

7We had the amazing opportunity to climb the Mont-Fuji with our Professor, Mr. Christophe Boraley. We had, as well, the chance to share a delicious traditional meal with the sciences and technology department Heads of the Swiss Embassy of Tokyo.

This exchange program not only allowed us to discover Japan, but moreover let us meet amazing, passionate, dynamic, motivated and professional people. The kindness, devotion and willingness to help were features shared by many of our hosts at the facilities of the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross College. Red Cross medical centres gave us a vision based on the concept of Humanity. This philosophy was created with the desire to help and care for people who are suffering without any discrimination.

10-2The program was very intense and professional. However, the warm feeling of each visit largely compensated the hard work needed during our training. Our overall training was greater than what we had imagined. This daily immersion in the Japanese nursing care was purely beneficial, and made our internship better than we could ever have expected.

Japan has been able to merge modernity and tradition, hospitals and life centers know how to cultivate the art of difference: “one place for each item and each item has its own place”. Walls have dedicated spots for equipment, wheelchairs and many other items. This approach enables them to save room and leaves hallways wide open. A specific attention is brought to the risk of earthquakes and medical personnel are very well prepared with constant drills. Patients are all categorized by colour codes based on the severity of their condition. This system is efficient when it is necessary to evacuate any facility. Medical buildings are also strictly required to have an earthquake resistance structure. Each infrastructure was conceived under the guidance and help of medical personnel. The results are a work environment that is very functional and well integrated.

11Floors are made of shock absorbing material. Bathrooms are equipped with anti-slippery tiles. Numerous fences are present along hallways. Patients are free to roam in the different shops within hospitals. Each patient gets a phone when admitted at the hospital, so that health professionals can contact them 15 minutes prior to each consultation. Each bed has access to a window so that each patient can benefit from the daylight. Japanese baths and washing machines are accessible to all patients. Huge living rooms with daylight are available for the patients and their visitors. The units have kitchens for older residents, shared living rooms, washing facilities and sizeable deck/garden. Everything is done to enable everyone to live in harmony with their values and traditions and to keep their dignity.

We were impressed by their understanding of life in a community: in fact, Japanese people seem highly concerned by others’ well-being, and the medical staff constantly made sure that patients were well taken care of. Patients are really at the centre of every decision. We were also extremely impressed by the capacity of Japanese nurses to think and act for the hospitalized people first. We were amazed as well by their ability to combine ultra-technology with values and traditions, to accommodate at best to take care of their patients.

To conclude, we have noticed that two of the greatest strengths of the Japanese nursing system are the perfect training in order to face serious crises and the quality of the intervention structures. Because of its geography and environment, Japan has developed an intervention plan in order to act quickly and efficiently in case of natural disaster. Through an innovative approach, the Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing has created, in collaboration with several Japanese universities and organizations throughout the world, a Nursing Science PhD in disasters over a period of five years. With this program, skilled nurses specialized in natural and other types of disasters are trained in order to 12work in international organizations throughout the world. We have been interested in its innovative approach and in this training program, knowing that there exists some risk of earthquakes in Switzerland (in the area of Basel and in the Wallis), as well as other natural disasters. Furthermore, this exchange allowed us to question ourselves on our own practice of nursing, because Switzerland and Japan share many challenges: an aging population representing a large need of healthcare, and increased health costs due to the high quality of this healthcare. This training, even if it was quite short, was an immense experience. We are now back in Switzerland, with innovative ideas as well as questions about how to incorporate some of the acquired knowledge in our future work experiences. We can only recommend such an experience to other students, and are very thankful to both organisations for this opportunity.

Bergonzoli Vanessa

Di Nucci Kelly

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