Studying abroad in Belgium was an experience I will never forget. Before our study abroad officially started we all travelled to Europe early and stopped in both Amsterdam and London for a few days. This kicked off our amazing European adventure. After our few days of nonstop exploring and very little sleep, we headed back to Ghent to start our two-week course. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before I arrived but after the first day all my worries had disappeared. All the students from the first week bonded immediately and we became inseparable from then on.
In the first week of the program, we visited an abundance of facilities related to end of life care. We saw palliative care units, nursing homes, and oncology units. One common factor that they all shared was the focus on comfort and complementary therapies. They would use therapies such as aromatherapy, art therapy, and breathing exercises in conjunction with more typical therapies offered. In the USA, we don’t see these therapies being used often. Belgium really focuses on quality of life instead of quantity of life. They really provide a holistic way of nursing to all of their patients.
Coming back, I really hope I can bring my new knowledge of complementary therapies and put them into use for clinical and when I start my career as a nurse. There is so much we can all learn from each other and I am so grateful that I had an opportunity like this to broaden my idea of what nursing can do and become.
Being able to study abroad in Ghent, Belgium was one of the best experiences in my life. Cultural night was incredible and a night that I surely will never forget. It was enlightening and wholesome to watch how animated everyone got about their food and their country. I got to meet so many people from various places around the world (Belgium, Kansas, Portugal, Latvia, Czech, Germany and Estonia), and learn about their country, perceptions of the world and end-of-life care.
Since I have been working in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide for almost five years, I have had many experiences with the way end-of-life care can be carried out in America. However, I wanted to learn more about palliative and end-of-life care in general, but also about how it differs in Europe.
As I was in Belgium, I quickly realized that the country focuses a lot more on optimizing comfort and enhancing the quality of life during palliative care. There are actual facilities dedicated to this, therefore the healthcare workers are experts at completing the care. Through the use of music, art, aromas and even massages, the workers are capable of not only relaxing the individual, but also relieving physical and existential suffering.
My own personal box has widened to accept everyone I met, everything I have learned and everything I have experienced. The friends I have made from this trip I still talk to, because though this trip was only two weeks, I believe the impact of this course and each other, has kept us talking. I am so happy to have met them all.