HESAV – Haute Ecole de Santé Vaud – students at the Wuxi Tongren International Rehabilitation Hospital

Six students (2 physiotherapists, 2 nurses and 2 occupational therapists) along with 2 HESAV teachers participated in a 2-week clinical training pilot project at the Wuxi Tongren International Rehabilitation Hospital, a hospital renowned in the region.

Specialized in Neurorehabilitation, this establishment offers therapies that bring together traditional Chinese medicine with Western methods. The students were therefore able to learn about the fundamentals of acupuncture and try out cupping therapy. They discovered vast infrastructures and instruments for physiotherapy and occupational therapy quite different from those they were familiar with in Switzerland. They were surprised by the presence and role of families in the caregiving for patients. Students also had to opportunity to accompany nurses in the pediatric rehabilitation, psychiatry and hospitalization departments.

An initial adaptation period was needed for students to integrate, in order to understand and communicate with the Chinese caregivers and patients. An atmosphere of confidence was quickly established thanks to Chinese tutors among Anglophone professionals. It was with this group, as well as with their professors, that the students debriefed on their experiences.

Other exchanges between students and a nursing sciences professor from the Wuxi Medical School of Jiangnan University enabled students to reflect on the Swiss and Chinese healthcare systems, access to care, more or less holistic therapeutic approaches, pain management methods, as well as organization of work and staffing.

Finding themselves together in a foreign environment promoted deeper understanding of inter-professional concepts and professional identities. These reflections led students and their teachers to envision new collaborative practice modalities that they could propose in Switzerland.

The professionals of Wuxi Tongren International Rehabilitation Hospital made themselves available nights and weekends to guide the Swiss visitors in their discovery of the culture and region. This hospitality, this pleasure of sharing in spite of linguistic difficulties, and these professional and cultural encounters are all keys to this project’s success.

The visit came to a close with a warm reception and dinner at swissnex China, where the consular team presented their services and the tertiary education system in China – capped by a cultural quiz.

Following these two weeks, Wuxi Tongren International Rehabilitation Hospital professionals as well as our students asked us to be sure to continue to run this clinical immersion module in the coming years, in order to benefit a maximum number of students.

- Contributed by Carlos MASIAS-VALDES, Dean of International Relations, Haute Ecole de Santé Vaud