A Mighty Nurse in Sweden

Traveling NurseI am a nurse living and working abroad. I moved to Sweden nearly six years ago. It is a country known for Ikea, the Aurora Borealis, gender equality, and universal healthcare. It is also a country known for its humanity, opening its doors to refugees from war torn regions of the world. While I can personally attest to the benefits of socialized medicine, I will save it for another post. A question I get a lot from nurses back home is, “What is it like to work in another country?” It prompted the idea of featuring nurses from around the world. I thought of no better place to start than my second home.

I live in Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden. A beautiful seaside city in the southwest, home to the headquarters for Volvo Cars & Trucks, University of Gothenburg, and Chalmers University of Technology. The companies and universities draw employees and students from all over the world.

Our first international nurse feature is Lena, a nurse living here in Gothenburg. She works in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital, a part of University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital system and Sahlgrenska Academy. Sahlgrenska Academy boasts some of the world’s most innovative research including recently the world’s first successful births of infants born to uterine transplant recipients.

With years of experience under her belt, Lena still oozes positivity and enthusiasm in the workplace. If ever there was a Mighty Nurse, she is it. When I open the door to our staff lounge at work and see her there, I know it will be a good night because of her years of experience and approachability.

Describe what healthcare is like in your country (provided through taxes, privatized)?

In Sweden there is access to both public health (little to no out of pocket cost) that is provided for through taxes, as well as private practices. Healthcare is completely free for children in Sweden until they are 18 years old.

What is a normal nurse/patient ratio (how many patients per nurse) in Sweden?

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a nurse can take care of between 1-8 patients depending on how sick they are. If the patients are ventilated, the nurse will usually be responsible for two patients (together with a nursing assistant).

What kind of acuity?

The infants we care for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) here in Gothenburg are the most critical. The unit is the only Level III in this region of Sweden and the acuity has increased largely in the last few years. We take care of only the most extreme preterm infants and infants that need advanced care like inhaled nitric oxide therapy, neonatal therapeutic hypothermia, etc., with the exception of ECMO. 

If there was one thing you could change about your healthcare system, what would it be?

I would say more resources and separate budgeting is needed for the children’s hospital. Healthcare is getting more complex. More staff and more advanced equipment is needed. As it is now, many are slaving away to provide the best care for the patients and their families. It cannot continue this way in the long term and as a result, many burn out and leave.

Describe some of the stronger points of your healthcare system.

I like the idea that everyone can be treated regardless of economy or insurance. I think it is great that healthcare is provided by taxes and would gladly pay more if it was directed toward our healthcare.

Describe a normal day on the job for you.

I am currently taking a break from Level III NICU. I am working as the neonatal resource nurse for a hospital that has no NICU left. I work a 4pm to 7 am shift with a nursing assistant specialized in pediatrics. We are available to the Labor and Delivery unit (midwives) for any needs. I attend C Sections, vacuum assisted deliveries, and assess and care for babies with possible infections and/or respiratory distress after delivery. After all my years with pediatrics, it feels good to use my experience fully, rely on my competence, and take responsibility in critical situations as the attending neonatologist is not in house.

If there is anything you would like to add, please feel free!

My hope is that more and more nurses would choose Neonatal Intensive Care as a career. It is a fantastic job that I still haven’t tired of after 30 years.

It’s interesting. Thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic, in a country in Northern Europe where they speak a different language and have different customs, many of the problems within healthcare mirror those in the U.S. They fight understaffing, employee burn out, the need for more resources, and the struggle against bureaucracy. It is a struggle worldwide to provide better, safer patient care while maintaining wellbeing for self.

Thank you for your time, Lena!! Tack så mycket! Stay tuned for a Mighty Nurse from South Africa.






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