Teresa Pérez: "This international experience has helped me to listen in the silences and to value the gaze".


28 | 07 | 2022

School of Nursing


Several students from Degree are doing internships abroad thanks to the agreements signed between School and other foreign universities.

Much has been written about travel and the experience staff of leaving home to make a living. However, the pandemic has forced the delay and cancellation of these academic trips abroad. It has been two years of hiatus in the exchanges for future nurses who have seen how the health regulations of other countries prevented them from setting foot in the hospitals where the profession is really learned.

The international experience mentioned in the School of Nursing of the University of Navarra, is nothing more than offering the student of Degree an in situ learning both in theoretical classes and in the internship, where they get to know closely how professionals from other countries practice. This allows them to compare healthcare systems, network with other colleagues and even learn another language.

This is the case of five students who this academic year 2021/2022 have been able to inaugurate this academic return to pre-pandemic times, carrying out clinical internship exchanges at Campus Biomédico di Roma (Italy) and at the Nossa Senhora da Arrábida Hospital in Azeitão (Portugal). Amaya, Covadonga, Lucía, Sara and Teresa knew that if you want something, it costs you something. From the beginning, it was a whole degree program of obstacles to overcome in the midst of exams: "I valued very much with my parents the incredible character and experience that this internship would bring to my curriculum, knowledge and experience. In spite of all the inconveniences that have arisen in these last three months - with the documentation, going against the clock, exams, vaccinations - it has been worth it," says Covadonga Franco, who is currently in Italy. Her colleague, Amaya Sagasti, was not initially motivated by the idea: "I didn't really feel like it because I had a lot of plans for this summer. I was thinking about it and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to leave. The idea of living in Rome for two months was very tempting".

Although living in another country can be idyllic, when trying to understand what it is like to be away from the family nest, one finds surprises, such as the fact that the healthcare center is not as close as it seems: "Our hospital is in Azeitão, a small town two hours from Lisbon, where we have settled. Every day we spend four hours traveling there and back, and we have to take four means of transport," adds Sara Velasco. Her traveling companion, Teresa Pérez, says that "the adaptation to a new city has been very good and the hospital's staff has helped us a lot. Both the patients and their families have been very understanding with us". With a little financial aid, everything is easier.

And what about language? Despite the language barrier, I was able to do my best to establish good nurse-patient relationships," says Teresa, because, although Portuguese or Italian are somewhat similar to Spanish , "I was able to see how, despite the limitation, one can make oneself understood and provide good care," says Sara. "I came to Rome without knowing any Italian and the truth is that it doesn't become a barrier for me," says Amaya. "Italians here are very open people. group None of the three of us have ever felt alone," adds Lucía Cáceres. "Being in a university environment has helped us even more because, as soon as we arrived, we joined a group of friends from the university with whom we have been going out and getting to know Rome when we were not in the hospital. And Covadonga concludes: "They love to talk to us and tell us what they know about Spain. In short: ham, paella and bullfighting. Centuries of existence summarized in three classics.

"They love to know that we are from the University of Navarra, there are several nurses who did the degree program there because in Italy the Degree in Nursing did not exist."

Other nursing


"The nurse in Portugal has responsibilities more similar to those of a nursing assistant in Spain. In the mornings we distribute medication to the patients on the floor and then we give complete baths to two or three patients," says Sara. In palliative care every day is different, so we adapt flexibly and confidently to the different situations that may arise during the day, always under the supervision of our nurse at reference letter".

Lucia tells us how nursing is in Italy: "It is quite backward. Talking to one of the nurses at the center, she told us that Italian nurses do not specialize in any particular field since the hospital is interested in any nurse being able to replace another one if one is missing at a specialization program, choosing quantity of nurses over quality of nursing activity, according to her."

And you learn from everything. For example, Covadonga has realized "how important a nurse's attitude is. Maybe because in my internship at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra I am more focused on getting a good grade and proving my worth, but I didn't realize what attention does to the patient". And she adds "They love to know that we are from the University of Navarra, there are several nurses who did the degree program there because in Italy the Degree in Nursing did not exist". "Just today we have seen how a lady had a carcinoma removed from her forehead that had invaded the wall of the skull. The fact that we have seen the dura mater (the layer that covers the brain) of a woman and that she is still alive is something extraordinary and impossible at the same time, hard to believe," explains Amaya.

Even Teresa has changed her opinion regarding certain clinical areas: "At first I was not attracted to the idea of working in palliative care, but day after day it has been winning me over. Theyhelp you to give another meaning to life, in addition to learning practical things that I will develop in my life as a future nurse". But not only that, this international experience has allowed her to learn "to listen in the silences, to value the look and to feel how just by shaking hands we can change the patient's experience". When the profession is a vocation, it is pure poetry.

"Despite the language barrier, I have been able to give the best of myself."

staff and professional growth

When asked if they would recommend other colleagues to have this experience, the answer is unanimous: Yes."Living abroad enriches you as a person and having an international experience is incredible."says Teresa. The experience of seeing new things, how they work in other places, the value and weight given to nursing, are values that "if you don't go abroad, you won't be able to acquire," adds Covadonga. For Sara, it has allowed her to improve in some aspects: "I have learned about myself: to organize myself more and better, and to organize my abilities as a nurse," a change that she will notice next year. "But I have also learned about Portugal: its culture, its language and its cities". She does not rule out returning in the future.

And Lucia has put to test "my ability to coexist and adapt to new situations. Also, at staff I am very shy and I think that this shyness has been gradually decreasing".

"Living abroad enriches you as a person and having an international experience is amazing."

International outreach


In any hospital you visit, you can see people from other cultures, races, religions, who require different care, even if two suffer from the same disease. Focusing on multiculturalism, diversity and, of course, the richness of other societies, the School of Nursing started planning the area of International Office almost a decade ago, offering opportunities abroad for the students of both the Degree and the International Nursing Program.

To date, the School has signed 21 agreements in Europe, Asia and America, always looking for contacts with those universities that share the Other way of being / Other way of doing. That contribute to the training of student and that allow you to see other ways of being a nurse.

A international outreach that is not only experienced outside campus. Foreign students from these continents also come to Pamplona to get to know our culture, our nursing and, of course, our students. Whether in clinical practice or in theoretical classes, a student of the School becomes a host for those who have just landed, either as a buddy - a companion and trusted person during their stay in Spain - or as another companion with whom to share academic and cultural experiences in the Nursing Summer School.