Swedish princess trains to help carers as record numbers apply to train as nurses

Sweden's Princess Sofia has taken part in an intensive training programme for care workers, at the same time as the country reported a record number of applicants for nursing programmes in further education.

Swedish princess trains to help carers as record numbers apply to train as nurses
Sweden's Princess Sofia, centre, with two of Sophiahemmet's nurses. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Furloughed workers including SAS cabin staff and hotel employees are undergoing a three-day intensive retraining course to be able to work in the care and healthcare sectors. Also among the trainees was Sweden's Princess Sofia, the wife of Prince Carl Philip who is fourth in line to the Swedish throne.

Princess Sofia is an honorary chair at Sophiahemmet, the hospital and training college where the course took place.

“Having the opportunity to help in this difficult time is extremely rewarding,” the royal wrote on Instagram, sharing a picture of her nursing scrubs and training equipment.

She explained: “Last week, I undertook training in healthcare and care work at Sophiahemmet. Within the framework of the 'emergency response', I am now placed in one of the hospital's care departments where, together with other newly trained colleagues, I can support and relieve the care staff with various tasks, including care of patients and cleaning.”

Sophiahemmet is a private hospital, but has shared resources with the Stockholm region's healthcare by lending around 40 employees to work in intensive care units, and supporting surgery, primarily in cancer, in order to relieve the city's emergency hospitals treating coronavirus patients.






A post shared by Prinsparet (@prinsparet) on Apr 16, 2020 at 10:56am PDT

“Princess Sofia is at Sophiahemmet to relieve the regular assistants where help is needed,” the Royal Court's communications secretary Johan Tegel told TT.

The first round of training at Sophiahemmet had 30 places, but after a high level of interest further sessions were quickly arranged.

Participants on the course learn about infectious and viral diseases, hygiene protocols, patient privacy, and how to work with patients and their relatives.

The training course is aimed at getting furloughed workers into the care sector quickly, building on the existing medical training of cabin personnel for example to give them the skills to start work immediately during the coronavirus crisis.


But there are also signs of a longer-term rise in nursing trainees.

Applications for further education courses as a whole are at a record high in Sweden, and were up by 13 percent when they closed for the autumn term on Thursday.

“This is a fantastic increase, and especially pleasing is the number of the [applications to] nursing programmes with have increased by 33 percent. It shows that many people have a great social commitment in the country,” said Karin Röding, general director of the University and Higher Education Council (UHR).

After adjustments, it turned out that the rise in nursing applications had actually risen by 34 percent from last year. The increase for medical programmes was 26 percent, and for biomedical analysts the figure was 22 percent.

According to UHR, the increase applied to all age groups but was most notable among those about to leave high school, aged 19 or younger. Röding said it was too early to draw conclusions about the reason for the increase, but that times of uncertainty often attract more people to further education.

It's also possible that high school leavers are cancelling planned travel, which in Sweden is common after graduating, due to the global uncertainty and travel bans, and are instead applying straight to study programmes.

What should you be doing to help reduce the rate of infection?

    In Sweden, the official advice requires everyone to:

  • Stay at home if you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild and you would normally continue life as normal. Stay at home until you have been fully symptom-free for at least two days.
  • Practise good hygiene, by regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser when that's not possible, and covering any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
  • Keep distance from all other people when in public places. That includes shops, parks, museums, and on the street, for example. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a 1.5-2 metre distance.
  • Avoid large gatherings, including parties, weddings, and other activities.
  • Work from home if you can. Employers have been asked to ensure this happens where possible.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, both within and outside Sweden. That includes visits to family, planned holidays, and any other trips that can be avoided.
  • If you have to travel, avoid busy times such as rush hour if you can. This reduces the number of people on public transport and makes it easier for people to keep their distance.
  • If you are over 70 or belong to a high-risk group, you should stay at home and reduce all social contacts. Avoid going to the shops (get groceries delivered or try to find someone who can help you), but you can go outside if you keep distance from other people. Read more about the help available to those in risk groups here.
  • By following these precautions, we can all help to protect those who are most at risk and to reduce the rate of infection, which in turn reduces the burden on Sweden's healthcare sector.
  • Read more detail about the precautions we should all be taking in this paywall-free article. Advice in English is also available from Sweden's Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation.


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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”