Clinical placements

Foreign placements make me better at my job

Perspectives gained in Japan and India give student Sophie Gill greater cultural awareness when helping patients in the UK

Perspectives gained in Japan and India give student Sophie Gill greater cultural awareness when helping patients in the UK


Sophie Gill (fourth from left) with project group colleagues and local teachers at a session
in Ahmedabad. Picture: Charlie Firth

In the first year of training for my children’s nursing degree I spent ten days in Tokyo, which was arranged in partnership with Japan’s Juntendo University.

A second international experience – a seven-day trip to Ahmedabad in northwest India earlier this year – was in stark contrast to my experiences in Japan.

Both these experiences helped me to develop interpersonal communication skills and intercultural competence.

There were 14 of us on the trip to Japan, including midwifery students and a newly qualified nurse, and the visit gave us an insight into how nursing care is delivered in a country that has made huge advancements in technology.

Different care pathways

The equipment and facilities used by the nursing and medical students were incredible, including robots to simulate patients whose deterioration could be controlled by a computer, virtual reality endoscopy and machines to practice delicate surgical skills.

At the university hospital we learned about the care pathways they use, and I spent time with nurses on a ward caring for women with breast cancer. Ensuring the patients were treated with dignity, and that those receiving end of life care were kept comfortable, were their top priorities.

I was also lucky enough to go into the hospital’s accident and emergency department, which seemed significantly less busy than the ones I have experienced in the UK.

As an emergency admission came through, I watched as the team worked quickly and efficiently to assess and manage the patient, who had a head injury after fainting on public transport.

Sharing and learning

One of the nurses explained that this sometimes happens in the Tokyo area because many people have long commutes and long days at work, and if they skip meals it can cause an imbalance in glucose levels.

I also had the chance to explore community services for older people, in residential homes and community groups. These were similar to services in the UK, focusing on promoting activity and social interaction, and the nurses were attentive and respectful to their patients.

Despite the language barrier, the staff were friendly and eager to share their experiences and learn from us what nursing is like in the UK.

Problem-solving skills

We also saw firsthand how hard-working nursing students are in Japan – many are in university full-time, alongside their clinical placements, and do part-time work in the evenings.

Being with other UK nursing students from different stages of training and fields of practice was also valuable in helping me to understand how my nursing training will develop, and how to prepare for it.

I couldn’t go all the way to Japan without doing some sight-seeing, so as well as navigating my way around Tokyo I helped organise a last-minute trip to Mount Fuji. This was something of a challenge as the travel staff spoke little English, but with maps and suggested routes we made it, and it helped strengthen my problem-solving and time-management skills.

Stark contrast

On the second placement, to Ahmedabad, I was in a project group from De Montfort University in Leicester who travelled to Ahmedabad to help educate local teachers about sepsis and the importance of effective hand hygiene.

In my clinical placements I have learned the importance of sepsis screening and early recognition of the condition in children, but the teachers and carers we worked with had never even heard of the term sepsis.

A chance to contribute

Alongside fellow De Montfort nursing student Katie Dutton, I ran sepsis workshops for the teachers, training them how to spot the signs of sepsis and what to do if it is suspected. I took the lead in explaining how sepsis presents in children, and demonstrated effective hand washing techniques.

In the week we were there we trained 100 teachers through the workshops. The children’s centres and schools we visited were in deprived communities, and it was a privilege to share our knowledge and provide potentially life-saving lessons.

It is an overwhelming feeling to have contributed to something that has such massive potential for change. I don’t feel like ‘just’ a nursing student – I know I can contribute to changing practice and improvements in care.

Explore the opportunities

This was an incredible learning opportunity, and an unforgettable experience I will carry with me throughout the rest of my training and my future nursing career.

My time in Ahmedabad was so different from my experiences in Tokyo, but both helped me – I feel I am now better able to support the many non-British young people and families I help care for in the UK, and to tailor health promotion and education to the needs of these patient groups.

Embracing these opportunities has enabled me to become more culturally sensitive and aware. I would recommend all nursing students to explore the opportunities available for international placements.


Sophie Gill is a second-year children’s nursing student at De Montfort University in Leicester


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