Students Experience Firsthand Emergency Healthcare

Written by Sophia Koch for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism


Florence University of the Arts – The American University of Florence, offers study abroad programs for students who are focusing their studies on health sciences. Among the many academic offerings, students can broaden their learning experience with the course, Clinical Practice in Emergency Healthcare. This class is partnered with Misericordia di Firenze.

Misericordia di Firenze literally translates to “Mercy of Florence” and it is Florence’s paramedic system. Providing free transportation to people in need, with over 100 members and employees in the service has graciously helped the community over generations. It is the oldest Brotherhood for the care of the sick and the oldest private voluntary institution in the world that is still active since being founded in 1244. Today, there are more than 700 Brotherhoods across the country, with 670,000 total volunteers, with the headquarters of the Confederation in Florence. Students who attend FUA – AUF have the opportunity to gain knowledge about the pillars of emergency healthcare at Misericordia with hands-on learning, on board with emergency dispatch vehicles. 

Prior to boarding ambulances, students undergo a preparatory course, which teaches them theory and practice of emergency healthcare, including CPR/AED and legal frameworks of the Italian medical system. Additionally, students had to take a course, MedTalk - Communicating in Italian in Health Professions, which focused on basic health-related terminology and communication scenarios with patients and colleagues. 

Misericordia provides free medical transportation services all around Tuscany. Viviane Arking, one of the students of the program, said that this opportunity has allowed her to learn a lot about healthcare in Italy, as well as gain new medical skills. Along with learning about healthcare, the students have also been able to immerse themselves in the Florentine culture, by attending Fiorentina soccer games and grabbing daily cappuccinos with other crew members.

“I see these experiences as a very meaningful and nice way to connect with the Italian community in Florence, offering a unique perspective on the city and its inhabitants while providing assistance when it’s needed most.”

- Viviane Arking

It is never easy moving to a new country, especially studying under such a rigorous career path when it isn’t your first language. However, Arking said that she views this opportunity to develop her communication, adaption, and cultural competence skills that will be valuable for her in a professional and personal setting. “It is also a great way to give back to the community that has warmly welcomed me, helping me navigate Florence and creating a sense of home thousands of miles away from where I grew up,” she said. 

Thanks to this academic course, students are able to get practical, experiential learning for their future career path in healthcare, while also gaining a profound understanding of an entirely new culture. This way, students can embrace the precepts of Misericordia by providing mercy to the community, as well as becoming active citizens in Florence, which is one of the pillars of FUA – AUF’s mission.

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