Building cultural competences in a short-term exchange

European Nursing Module Network, ENM, was founded in 1994. There are 34 partner universities at present. The institutions offer two weeks of clinical placements for students three times a year. The aim of the module is to develop student’s understanding of the concept of culture, to develop awareness and understanding and acceptance of European and professional cultural differences. At the same time the student will develop her/ his awareness of client’s individual cultures, but also increase awareness of their own cultural identity. (ENM 2023.)

LAB University of Applied Sciences has been a member of ENM network many years. There have been 26 outgoing students and 17 incoming students over passed years.

[Alt text: The main doors of a huge building with text berner bildungszentrum pflege.]
Image 1. The partner university in Bern, Switzerland. (Image: Anna Romakkaniemi)

Mentoring and reflection

The development of training interculturally competent students requires nurse educators and mentors to be interculturally competent as well. They also need to be pedagogically prepared to be able to facilitate intercultural learning and growth. Educator’s personal and professional intercultural competences can be divided into three categories: knowledge, attitudes or values and skills.

An educator should be able to identify culture and cultural features which affect intercultural interaction. Also, her/ his attitude towards other cultures is open and is interested in intercultural interactions. An educator needs to be able to challenge own cultural assumptions, seek other perspectives and shift perspectives too. Professionally an educator should know different health belief models, be aware of stereotypes, prejudices, and cultural biases.

A nurse mentor should provide culturally congruent and sensitive care based on individual, family and community needs by working inclusively in a multidisciplinary and multicultural team. (Brokaw 2020.)

An exchange experience in Bitola, North Macedonia

A 3rd year nursing student, Raktin Pitkänen applied and was accepted into the ENM program last spring. She was very happy to do her exchange in Higher Medical School in Bitola, University St. Kliment Ohridski as it was also her first choice. There was another nursing student from the Netherlands and two students from Switzerland.

During the exchange period, students participated in nursing classes. They also circulated through different wards in the public hospital, as well as private ones. They were bewildered at times, how vastly the culture and techniques differ from Finland, Netherlands, and Switzerland. For example, students were allowed to be in the delivery rooms and observe the whole procedure.

Students often discussed with each other, with the nurses or with professor Filov about everything to digest their perspectives. They learnt to respect the differences and became more open-minded. When they had free time, they roamed around the city of Bitola and got to hang out with local students. They also had a day trip to a nearby city, Ohrid, which was an absolute gem. The experiences she got were well beyond what she could describe here.


Raktin Pitkänen is a 3rd year nursing student at LAB University of Applied Sciences.

Anna Romakkaniemi works as a Senior Lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences. She has been a coordinator in the ENM network since 2018.


Brokaw, E. 2020. The Profile of an Intercultural Competence Educator for Healthcare and Other Professions. Cited 7 September 2023. Available at

ENM. 2023. ENM European Nursing Module Network. Cited 7 September 2023. Available at