Learning and sharing between England and Sweden

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Lina Eiserman Ålund visited Havens Hospices in Westcliff on Sea in Essex, to understand the services and support available to adult patients receiving end of life care.

After securing funding from her local council in Härryda, Sweden, Lina was able to spend a week in Essex shadowing staff at Havens Hospices.The grant stipulated that she keep a diary of her time in England and share her experiences with her workplace in Sweden to encourage learning.

Lina spoke to ehospice about why she chose to travel to England, her experience working at the hospice and the ideas she will implement into her own workplace now she has returned home.

Could you tell us about yourself and your current job in Sweden?

I work as a leisure assistant at Honekulla Farm in Molnlycke, a care home for the elderly. I run activities on a weekly basis and have a different event each day; it could be gymnastics, crosswords, puzzles, playing boules or reading. I also organise entertainment, live music and parties. I am also trained in bereavement care.

I have been the main carer for many relatives throughout my life, including both of my parents and my husband at the end of their lives. My husband passed away last year. I recently returned to university and have a bachelor’s degree, as well as a master’s degree in music science. In the past I have been a flute teacher and a classroom assistant.

What made you choose to come to England to work with the staff at Havens Hospices?

I was wondering how I could effectively work with people on a daily basis when they have a short time left in life. How do we take care of their spirituality? How do we approach death? And how could I make sure that the patient gets the best care? I have a friend whose wife used the hospice at home service in Great Wakering in Essex, and he knew about Havens Hospice and helped me to make contact with them.

How did you get the funding to visit?

My community paid all of my expenses except food. The funding covered travel, living and salary for five working days. I added three days of my own vacation.

What did you do during your time at the hospice?

I shadowed staff during their shift or spent time in the day care centre and worked with arts and crafts. I went with one Macmillan nurse to a patient’s home and also spent time in the administration office to understand the organisation. I talked with nurses about the hospice and one of the reverends about their work.

How did the team at Havens Hospices respond to you working with them?

They did the best they could to make sure I got what I needed. They answered my questions and gave me their time. Many of the staff were interested in why I had chosen to visit. I also understood the difficulties they faced by including me in all their work due to the issue of confidentiality.

What did you learn during the experience?

I had some questions that I actually found some really good answers to; particularly how to deal with difficult situations and to respond to our patients in the best way possible.

Are there any examples of practice you have seen in England that you will take back to Sweden with you?

I will be able to solve issues more easily with the tools I have gained at Havens Hospices. An example is that I will now ask for patient-led answers. Is this good for the patient? Is this what the patient would like to do? We do this already in my workplace, but it will be easier for me now I have the techniques used at the hospice. Another issue is how to approach a person on a spiritual basis. I also find that to be more clear with the ‘hospice thinking’.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The issue I have been thinking about for a long time since I have come back to Sweden, is that my country is more secular (not so many people going to church these days) and we hardly ever talk about death and dying, in spite of the fact that we are working in a unit where people are admitted and stay until they die.

I’m taking so much back from my visit. In Sweden we say you should always go with your heart and I will go back and use that more because I’ve seen an enormous amount of love in this place. I feel I will go back a better person because of it.

Click here to read an article published on ehospice UK about Lina’s visit to England.

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