My name is Jurn Veenstra, I am a 24-year old Occupational Therapy student. I have started my 4th semester of my education at Zuyd Hogeschool in Heerlen. I had the opportunity to do an internship abroad and learn more about the world of Occupational Therapy (OT). I made the decision to go to Sweden’s 6th largest city, Linköping. I have lived there from the beginning of August till 11 December. In Linköping I did an internship at a university hospital. During this period, I was working together at the hospital with a multi-disciplinary team.
In August I started with an intensive Swedish course of 4 weeks.
In our first school week we had a so-called international week where we learnt the basics of the Swedish (again) language and some medical terminology. During the international week I met a lot of fellow international students who were living in the same neighbourhood as me.
I made the decision to do my internship in Sweden because it seemed very interesting to me to work and live abroad, I heard that Occupational Therapy should be on a higher level then back home and because of the fact that Sweden was always on the to visit list. It was also a great opportunity for me to learn more about Sweden and have a little holiday break as well.
I was most scared about the fact that it was going to be just me, living independently in Sweden. Here, in the Netherlands there are always friends and family who live close by and can give advice and support to you when needed. In Sweden I was going to be all by myself which was very exciting for me.
What was the internship?
During my stay in Linköping I worked at two different units located in the same building. One unit was a neurological care division for people who required serious care after they had been in a motorcycle accident or stroke for example. The orthopaedics unit was for students who were following a medical training in Swedish. These students were responsible for maintaining a daily structure. During the two weeks I had worked there it was our responsibility, as international students, to observe and evaluate daily tasks. Sometimes we also helped the team out. During this period, I have learnt how to measure the blood pressure, how to draw blood and how to check for blood cells under a microscope.
At the revalidation unit I was responsible for the care of four patients, with the help of my supervisor of course. These patients needed several hours of therapy a day, like a wheelchair training, arm-hand function training and activities of daily living like cooking. We also went on house visits. We worked with the same process model as we use in the Netherlands, named CPPF.
I was already familiar with this model because I had used it for some projects I had done in an earlier stage of my study. We also used FIM assessments, PRPP observations, Los Ranchos Amigos Scale and other assessments.
When I look back on my time in Sweden and my internship, I can conclude that OT in Sweden is very similar to OT in the Netherlands. The guidance and advice of my supervisor has been really helpful. She translated everything for me during meetings with professionals and with patients who couldn’t speak English.
One thing which was very surprising for me, was the fact the hospital was not familiar with ICF domains. This was something that still had to be implemented. They were planning to do so in the future.
I had a very pleasant stay in Sweden and had a great time during my internship. I have had no negative experiences, besides for being sick for a week. When I was sick, I quickly noticed that the health care system in Sweden is very different in comparison with the Dutch health care system. I had to call different doctors and hospitals before I got the help I needed. The waiting time was also extremely long. Because of this I had to extend my stay for two weeks to make sure I had worked enough hours at the hospital. During this time a lot of people I became friends with were already back home and this made me feel kind of lonely. At this time I wanted to go home as soon as possible.
What was most surprising to me was that you can communicate in different ways with patients although there is a language barrier. You can use sign or body language. I found this very interesting and I would like to do an additional course for sign language as soon as I finish this study.
I bought a bike which was very useful to make my way through town or to the hospital as well. You could go from one side to the other in half an hour (more or less). The other Dutch student had a car sometimes we used it to go to places which was very handy!
Besides working there was also time for some relaxation of course. I have travelled a lot through Sweden. I have visited Stockholm multiple times, Kiruna, Narvik and the surrounding areas of Linköping (I saw the northern lights in the last 3 places). We also went to ice hockey games and had drinks and dinners with other students from the hospital.
The most important thing I have learned from this experience is that even though you don’t speak the native language of a country it is still possible to communicate with people and to accomplish your goals.
I would describe my stay in Sweden in two words, both exciting and interesting. I would definitely recommend other students to go abroad but I would also like to remind them to look up some information about a country on beforehand. By doing so you will be guaranteed that you are going to a place where OT is known and where you can learn a lot.