Erasmus exchange in TUAS and Adolescent Psychiatric in-patients wards in Turku University Hospital


Introduction by Heikki Ellilä

In this article an Irish Erasmus nursing student Thomas Beaumont from Trinity Collage Dublin writes with clinical teacher Heikki Ellilä from Turku University of Applied Sciences about the characteristics of Erasmus exchange studies in general, additionally Thomas describes his own experiences from his 3 month study period as an Erasmus student in Turku.

In addition to, the international students studying in Nursing Degree Program in Turku University of Applied Sciences, TUAS receives every year a big number of Erasmus students from many European partner Universities and as well outside of Europe. For many years, TUAS Department of Health Care and Well-being has successfully exchanged students with Irish Universities such as Trinity Collage Dublin. These exchange students have mostly done their practical studies in various in-patients hospital settings and thus, in out-patients services in Turku and in surrounding municipalities. However, there have been students taking part in theoretical studies, which have been taught in English.

The willingness to offer foreign Erasmus students practical placements varies between clinics and units in the Hospital District of South-West Finland (VSSHP). In fact, there are natural concerns in the situations in which nursing students come from different country and sometimes from quite different culture too. Moreover, the workload for the mentor or supervisor is naturally heavier if they have to guide and teach a foreign student who are not skilled in Finnish language. At the same time mentoring foreign students offers new interesting view points for the mentors and gives an opportunity to improve language skills, which are peculiarly useful in the rapidly changing world of immigration and general internationalism.

A question about language barrier has often been raised, when placing non-finish speaking students’ on their internships in Finland, especially on psychiatric wards. This is obvious, because in addition to non-verbal communication and nurses´ own personality, plays verbal communication the main role in nursing and particularly in mental health nursing. This might be an issue concerning the practical studies of students speaking a foreign language. Nevertheless, most of the Finnish people can speak English and that younger they are that better they speak and the language is not a big concern. Therefore, adolescent in-patient wards and other adolescent mental health services might be a good choices as a placement for an Erasmus students. In addition, it is also possible to teach the students the main Finnish phrases used in nursing practice. The most important concern from the foreign student point of view could still to find supervisors willing to act as mentors, taking care of the foreign exchange students. We can conclude that “attitude matters”. We were very happy, to get so many good colleagues willing to take the mentor´s role in the clinic of adolescent psychiatry in Turku University hospital as Thomas Beaumont writes in following text.

Erasmus exchange in Finland, why?

My name Is Thomas and I am a 20 year old, 3rd year nursing student at Trinity college Dublin. During March of 2015, I had the exciting opportunity to apply for an Erasmus placement abroad. There were a number of adverse countries to choose from, however, I chose Finland as I wished to embrace wonderful Scandinavia and have a break away from busy Dublin. Upon applying for the Erasmus I never believed that I would achieve it. Nevertheless during April of 2015 I received word that I would be heading to Finland in September for three months of clinical placement. On receiving this information I had mixed emotions. I was excited, however, also extremely nervous due to the language barrier and many cultural differences, not to mention leaving my friends and family behind for 3 months.

Nursing studies in Ireland

In Ireland, nursing is a four year degree course specializing in specific disciplines such as General, Mental health, Intellectual disability, Children’s and General nursing as a combined degree and Midwifery. I went straight into mental health nursing. I decided to follow the path of mental health as In Ireland there are more opportunities and less stigma for males. I also relish retrieving an insight into people’s lives as a whole. I feel it is extremely rewarding getting to know what is going on in the clients mind and aiding them through recovery.

Finland and Turku

Once I settled into the Finnish lifestyle, making friends and meeting people from all different walks of life, I never looked back. Living in the student village for me was vital in maximising my Erasmus experience, it aided me in meeting new people and introduced me to many social events including the amazing trips to Russia and Lapland. I have made many friends for life during this Erasmus. Turku itself was an ample, safe, secure and an amazing city to help me settle into Erasmus life. It boasted many amenities and met all my needs. It has a wonderful mix of urbanisation and beauty.


Before I began my journey to Finland I was extremely concerned about the cultural and language threats that placement might pose, and I will admit at times it was not easy and could be quite frustrating. However, if you look deeper into the placement you will learn and pick up on many fascinating things. For example instead of using speech I learned to focus upon body language and facial expression, at times telling me more than words may have. I gained valuable knowledge of many different treatments and illnesses, namely Asperger’s and ADHD.

In many ways nursing care is extremely similar but there are some differences, the main differences include medication distribution, computerised notes, restraint, and the wide use of mobile phones in child psychiatry. In Ireland we distribute medication directly to our patients from the clinical office. Another major difference is in Ireland we continue to hand write our clinical notes, computerised notes have not yet been introduced. Restraint is also much different in Ireland, we are forbidden to use straps and instead avail off medication, seclusion rooms and alternative techniques. If there was one thing that I would change about Finnish mental health, it would be the wide use of mobile phones in child and adolescent psychiatric care. In Ireland we remove mobile phones on admission and replace with a basic phone used strictly for messaging and calls.

During my time I had the unique chance to create a therapeutic relationship with English speaking patients benefiting us both. I was also given the opportunity to explore different sections of the unit for example the polyclinic and the eating disorder unit, also speaking with many different members of the MDT, gaining a broad understanding of Finnish psychiatry.

In the end

All in all I have had a wonderful and positive Erasmus, both clinical and cultural, for example visiting different cities, Tampere and Helsinki experiencing traditional Finnish cottages weekends and enjoying Finnish nature whilst also having the chance to visit other countries such as Russia and Norway. The highlight of my trip had to have been my magical trip to Lapland. The beautiful snowy scenery, the transition of nature as we travelled to the top of Finland was amazing and the many activities which we partook in, for example visiting Santa’s village, snow shoe walking into the hills through deep snow, The amazing husky safari, both downhill skiing and cross country skiing in the most wonderful conditions, snow mobile and much more all while spending the week in a traditional cottage with friends from all over the world. My Erasmus experience has not only enhanced my studies but also me many life lessons that I will treasure forever.

Summary by Heikki Ellilä

Thomas has raised many crucial concerns about his 3 mounts Erasmus period in Turku, and as we can find in text, the supervision has been successful although supervisors have been non-native English speakers. They have probably have been speaking Finlish, which is enough. Most important is that we understand each other’s. More over the young patients were capable and also willing to speak with a foreign students. This could be empowering for both the adolescent and the student. Nonetheless, it seems that adolescent psychiatric in-patients unit could be a productive learning environment for nursing students coming outside Finland. A big thanks for TYKS adolescent clinic and those who took good care over Thomas.

Thomas Beaumont (Erasmus nursing studentfrom Trinity Collage Dublin) and
Heikki Ellilä (PhD, Principal Lecturer from Turku University of Applied Sciences)

This article was originally published on January 23, 2017.