School of Health Sciences

Nursing International Week: Bielefeld


In November 2017 I was given the opportunity to represent the University of Nottingham nursing school at ‘The International Week’ hosted by Bielefeld University. I travelled to Germany by plane to the three day conference (staying overnight in a youth hostel nearby). During my visit to Dusseldorf I had the opportunity to deliver two presentations about Cultural Diversity in Nursing, focusing upon my international elective placement.

The highlight of the conference for me was the international forum where nurses (registered as well as students) from different nations presented on their experiences. The presentations on international nursing was based on student exchanges, elective placements and nurses’ work abroad, in countries from: Belgium; Finland; Norway; Germany and Spain.

A major contrast in nursing between the United Kingdom and other European nations was the focus on mental health nursing. For instance, in a discussion with a German nurse I was explaining that there are four fields of nursing -one of which is mental health. When I asked how nurses look after mental health patients in Germany I felt shocked when he initially joked “ we don’t”.  The nurse proceeded to explain that general nurses are responsible for caring for mentally unwell patients. Nevertheless, it seems there is less emphasis on mental health in European nations in contrast to the UK healthcare, and with fewer specialised nurses employed to focus on these patients.

From the forum I recognised that the same evidence leads to different healthcare policies and practices between nations. For instance it is well known that equipment such as bed pans must be thoroughly clean to prevent cross-contamination. In Finland (as formerly practiced in the UK), metal bedpans are utilised and sterilised after use. Therefore a Finnish nurse described her surprise when on her elective placement in Derbyshire, that all bed pans are made from cardboard in the UK. Hence the Finnish nurse had never encountered a macerator before her elective placement to the UK and was embarrassed when she had to ask for assistance.

Other activities during International Week included visiting a German Hospice (built after German nurses were inspired by a British hospice founded by Cicely Saunders). I also visited the Bethel museum where I learned about the German social welfare system for people with learning disabilities through the centuries. The Bethel manager in the 1940s, Pastor Bodelschwingh Jnr, protested against the Euthanasia killings under Nazi Germany, by refusing to comply with censorship surveys. On the final day of the conference myself and the two other students from the University of Nottingham prepared and shared food at an international lunch including roast potatoes, plantain and apple cake.

The conference enabled me to develop my cultural awareness and nursing technique by sharing ideas with nurses about different clinical practices.  Indeed research shows that by experiencing nursing overseas, you are a more employable nurse. I thoroughly enjoyed attending and participating in the International Week due to the essential reason that travel broadens the mind. 

Written by Genevieve Elliott, third year nursing student

Posted on Thursday 23rd November 2017

School of Health Sciences

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Queen's Medical Centre
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