I am two thirds through my stay in south Finland, and my hospital experience is getting ever closer! But there’s still time to enjoy here, so read on and find out about my latest week….
Forest walk to Pirun Linna (Devil’s fortress)
At the weekend we all went for a walk through the Finnish Forest to an old viking fortress (a big bunch of rocks and boulders at the top of a hill). It was lovely to be outside wondering through the countryside with the family, watching the kids look at nature and find everything fascinating. The kids did really well walking so far on uneven ground, and Nerissa was determined to walk as much as she could over the boulders. Though most of them were bigger than her, so we carried her most of the time.
Church fun afternoon
On Saturday afternoon we visited the park where the church (many different denominations) put on a fun day for the kids for the end of the summer holidays. There were many activities including wooden stilts to try and walk with, painting rocks, hand made swing ball, trampolining and face painting. During the afternoon there was also a time for some kids songs with actions, including heads shoulders knees and toes.
Early Hospital Experience (don’t worry I wasn’t a patient!)
On Tuesday, Laura was kind enough to arrange for me to go into the hospital with her for a day. She currently works as a Paediatric Doctor on a surgical ward, so I was able to get a look into Finnish healthcare in Paediatrics, something I wouldn’t have done during my placement in Rovaniemi as I am an adult nurse. As well as being around children in the hospital, a new experience for me, I was able to talk to the nurses (who spoke good English) about nursing in Finland, differences between the training and working as a nurse in the countries, and their own experiences nursing abroad (both nurses I shadowed had been in England and one also in Saudi Arabia). I spent the first few hours on the ward seeing children aged between 6 months and 9 years old, redressing wounds, giving antibiotics and prepping the 6 month old for theatre. In the afternoon, Laura took me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to watch two operations. As the babies aren’t old enough or well enough to be transferred to a theatre, the surgical team go to them and turn the bed space into a theatre. Being neonatal, they were tiny! The youngest baby was born at 25 weeks (a normal full term is pregnancy is 40 weeks) and others who were today 38 weeks old, but born much earlier. The earliest a baby can be born and survive outside the womb is 24 weeks, and the latest someone can have an abortion by choice in Finland is 23 weeks. It was crazy to think that only just a few weeks before, the 25 week old would have been termed a foetus and eligible for abortion if socially desired! (Of course this was not the wishes of the parents and the birth was unexpected). Even though the older babies were near the equivalent age of a ‘full term’ baby, they were still very small and looked not much different to the 25 week old, as babies grow much slower outside of the womb. He was no longer than my arm and his heart was no bigger than small marble. I could have sat and watched him for hours, he was amazing!
In the ITU, I saw a wound dressing being changed on a baby who’d been born with her intestines in her chest, and needed extensive reconstructive surgery. She had sadly had many complications but is still fighting. The other was having his stoma removed (extension of the bowel/intestines outside of the body to collect waste). The doctors had to sew his little intestine together to make it one continuous tube again. (Sorry if this is making some of you a little ill!) This little boy had been born at very early stage through emergency C-section as he had a twin who was being very greedy with the blood supply, so the doctors delivered to try and save both. He was 1.1lb (500g), his brother was 3.3lb (1.5kg) at birth but is now much bigger and already at home. He had been in the unit for two months already, but was no bigger than the 25 week old laying next to him. Such an eye opener to the frailty of life.
I arrived on August 8th and enjoyed a week of lovely heat in the high 20’s and blue skies, pretty much the same as what we experienced in England. However, it’s been amazing to witness the quickest change in season from summer to autumn within two weeks. The temperature has dropped to the teens, it is cloudy and windy, and it rains most days, either almost constantly or in between bursts of sunshine. My hoody has been unpacked and the jeans are being worn. I have never experienced a change so quickly. The leaves on trees have also already started to change colour!
My spoken Finnish has not really improved a great deal. I spend much time teaching myself at home, and listening to films in Finnish (with subtitles), but it feels like a much bigger challenge to learn to listen and speak Finnish than read and write it. I live with a Finnish family, however they speak English to me most of the time as otherwise I wouldn’t speak at all, or have any idea what they were saying to me. I am grateful they speak English as we’ve had many good conversations and I’ve been able to get to know them, but my spoken Finnish has suffered for it (though, yes, I have only been in the country for two weeks!). Many Finnish words are long, or very long, and the natives speak very quickly, otherwise they would be speaking for a long time! That’s probably why they only say what’s necessary and leave out the small talk. It’s a bit demoralizing, wishing so much I could speak or even start to understand what was being said, but still having no clue and not really being able to see how to improve quicker. But looking at the bright side, I am able to pick out sounds or parts of words, and recognise single words in conversation, such as a number, “good”, “what”, “lets eat” and maybe a day of the week etc, but none of these yet help to know what the person is talking about (apart from the eating one). I will be registering for a Survival Finnish Course when I go to university, which I am hoping will really help as I’ll be learning with others so can practice speaking and listening.
I see many examples of things in my life that I have the desire to run before I can walk, so when I see myself doing it again, I try to be kinder to myself and think of my achievements rather than what I haven’t managed to do, as this is usually not realistic in the time I give myself to do it!
Laura took me to her Bible study group on Wednesday evening. We shared a light supper together before moving to the lounge where we shared prayer requests and then prayed for each other. They all spoke fluent English and made me feel very welcome.
I also managed Pastorate (home group)!
I am 4,500 miles away and 2 hours ahead, yet was able to still be present at Pastorate through the wonders of Skype the following evening! It was great to see friends and be able to pray with them about the huge number of conflicts around the world and Christian persecution, which happens in many places, most of which we never hear about through mainstream media sources. Even though sometimes I wish we could return to snail mail and be free of technology which takes up so much of our time, after two weeks of being in Finland I really appreciated being able to communicate so easily with my friends. Love you all!
A few pictures of Tampere centre as promised
I have finally heard that I will be working on a pulmonary ward and surgical ward for 6 and 7 weeks respectively from September. I am glad to now know what I will be doing and get a step closer to starting my experience. I have not yet had a placement on a medical ward (the pulmonary ward, which I am guessing the equivalent of a Uk respiratory ward), so it will be good to be able to compare this to surgical. It wasn’t particularly what I’d hoped for but I will go with an open mind and learn a lot. I am pleased with surgery and look forward to see how procedures differ to what I’m used to in the Uk.
Until next time when I’ll be another year older!
Hei Hei! (Bye)