By: Ankita Mishra, Honors College sophomore
The October of my freshman year, I began planning my study abroad experience. I researched the best options: the programs that would bring me the most credits, and a country that would best suit my interests. I landed upon HAN University in the Netherlands.
What I have learned and seen so far this semester may sound like anything else you may have read about being abroad, but the value that has been revealed to me in relation to medicine, patience, and humanity lies beyond comprehension. My minor, Internationalization, entailed a semester of theory involving the practice of healthcare in Western and developing countries and a comparison of these practices. This was coupled with a practical research component that I’d be completing while the Dutch students in the minor traveled abroad to practice health care in various developing countries at clinics in partnership with the university. The part I didn’t realize? Each and every one of my classmates would be a nursing student.
Being a public health major on a pre-medical route, my interests coincide with those of my classmates, but the education that we have received is very different. With every lecture, assignment, and group project that we completed together, I learned more about medicine from the perspective of a nurse. The challenges that they face and the mission that they hope to accomplish with every patient is similar to what I have observed from shadowing doctors, yet treated so different. Nurses are actively engaged in public health policy, patient advocacy, and have a tremendous role in the health of a patient. It occurred to me while working with other nurses that the ultimate difference between a doctor and a nurse is simply the ultimate responsibility of the patient as this is primarily the doctor’s liability. Everything else — the opportunities they have, their experiences, their goals, and their basic education — is the same.
My time with my nursing classmates not only illustrated to me the value of nursing, but also exposed me to the simple yet beautiful practice of Dutch healthcare. I have visited numerous hospitals and clinics in the Netherlands and the one aspect that they share is patient-centered care. Dutch health care focuses on addressing the social health of a patient to make hospitalization a less drastic change for patients. The cultural expectation of a person who is sick is not abided by in the practice of Dutch health care. Patients are provided with a close semblance of their daily routine as health care providers allow them to wear their own clothes, provide them with various opportunities for social interaction, and attempt to replicate their typical daily schedules as much as possible. In addition, hospitals and clinics constantly renovate their building to keep up with the needs of their clients and to assure that the client has the best possible experience during their stay. They overwhelm the client with options when it comes to rooms, their daily meal, and their day-to-day living while at their Hospital. With this approach, the Dutch health care system seeks to address the holistic needs of the patient rather than just curing their illness. The best part of it all, though? Most, if not all, of this care is free to the client.
My time in the Netherlands so far has taught me a lot about Dutch healthcare and how it compares to that of America and other countries. I continue to learn more through my research component, which consists of studying about the cost-efficiency of prevention methods established by large NGO’s, and then applying this knowledge to help develop a new public health minor at HAN with other lecturers. I cannot begin to thank the International Office and the Honors College for giving me this amazing opportunity to expand my perspective on medicine. With half of my stay to look forward to, I cannot even begin to imagine what the next few months holds.