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British Students on a Work Experience Scheme with the Halmstad Ambulance Service

This summer, over a two week period, five students from the University of Worcester in the United Kingdom carried out a so-called clinical work placement within ambulance services in Halland, thanks to cooperation with Halmstad University. Three of them were stationed in Varberg and two of them at the BAS ambulance station in Halmstad.

Ruth Hodgson is 21 and Stuart Evans 20. This spring they completed their studies to be paramedics at the University of Worcester in England. As a result of a newly started cooperative scheme involving their course in England and the specialist nursing degree programme in ambulance nursing at Halmstad University, the students had the opportunity to come to Sweden and Halmstad to do their clinical work placement at the BAS ambulance station.

"We also do work experience at home as part of the degree course, but this is an extra opportunity to find out what it is like within the profession. In addition it provides us with international experience", says Stuart Evans, just finishing a night-shift at BAS.

Halmstad Ambulance Service
Stuart Evans and Ruth Hodgson from the United Kingdom have carried out a so-called clinical work placement within ambulance services in Halmstad.

Ruth Hodgson and Stuart Evans quickly become part of the team at the station and were very much in the thick of things even if they were formally only observing.

Most things are the same in the nursing sector …

Nursing is very much a global arena but there can also be very localized differences, something which Ruth and Stuart noticed after two weeks in a different country. The majority of routines are same even though there are some differences. The biggest difference is not however the hospital or nursing system but how one takes care of the patients.

"Your ambulance stations are fantastically equipped and modern. It’s much nicer here. We don’t have anywhere to sleep at our stations; we’re not allowed to have a sleep during the night-shift even if nothing has happened. In England, we must attend to an emergency call straightaway – we don’t have an equivalent system of prioritisation between emergency calls which you have", says Ruth.

Ambulances are equipped in the same way and the equipment even comes from the same supplier. The radio systems are now also the same, since Halland adopted a system which involves the police, emergency services and ambulances using the same communication system and thereby being able to communicate with each other much more easily and securely.

There are however differences with regards to nursing and patient care. There are for example certain medicines which ambulance personnel in Sweden may administer but not their colleagues in the United Kingdom. Only doctors are allowed to do this.

"You are also allowed to administer much more morphine here, as much as the patient wants. In the UK we are much more restrictive about that", explains Stuart.

… but there are major differences in the courses

The course which Ruth and Stuart have followed in the United Kingdom is 2 years long and is quite different from Swedish degree programmes in ambulance nursing.

“In Sweden, you first study to be a nurse for three years for the award of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After that you need to work for at least six months and then study on a master’s programme to be a specialist ambulance nurse”, explains Tommy Berntsson who is himself an ambulance nurse and also lecturer at the University.  

Hoping for more opportunities involving co-operation for the University

Tommy Berntsson, together with Sharon Hardwick, director of studies for the paramedics degree course at the University of Worcester, have jointly taken the initiative to the exchange. The five students who spent some time in Halland this summer on their work placement, represent the first stage in a co-operative project which Tommy Berntsson hopes will develop into several components in the future.

“It would be great if our students could eventually travel to Worcester and do their work placement there. They are presently in the process of developing the course into a programme which is similar to our own. Hopefully we will be able to help them with that”, he adds.

Wanting to go on to further studies

Two weeks go quickly. Ruth and Stuart went back to England, much the better for the experience they have had here. At home, a good deal of follow-up work at the University was waiting for them before they could be awarded their degrees. They both want to work at an ambulance station in their home region of the West Midlands.

Both have plans to continue their studies when they have had a little more work experience. Ruth wants to be a lecturer within ambulance nursing and Stuart would like to be a doctor. His choice of profession might seem strange as he has always been afraid of blood and needles.

“I almost pass out when I have an injection myself. But giving injections to others is no problem and I’ve got better at it over the years”, he adds with a laugh.

He has no regrets with regards to his choice of profession. On the contrary, he is very happy and really enjoys working with people and being able to help them when they need it.

Would do it again

With regards to their work placement in Sweden, both Ruth and Stuart would certainly do it again but the language was a bit of a problem, above all in situations involving patient contact.

"When you come into contact with a patient you carry out a general examination and ask questions relating to the illness or injury. It was difficult to understand what was said and therefore it was difficult to know how to act", says Ruth.

"If it isn’t a life or death situation, adds Stuart, then it is a completely different ball game. You just jump straight in and do what you have to do. In this case, language isn’t quite so important. Otherwise it has generally been a case of observing how our Swedish colleagues work."

Even if Stuart did not quite got everything he wanted out of the work placement due to the language barrier, he is quick to recommend others to take the opportunity and travel to Sweden.

"We will certain have use for this experience. But I would have got more out of it professionally if I knew the language. I would be able to participate to a greater extent and do more – now I am just observing and trying to learn but it isn’t the same thing as doing things yourself."

”Got a lot out of it”

BAS and the ambulance personnel were also very pleased with the time spent at the station by the British students. One of them is Ulf Norling, who supervised Ruth and Stuart at the station. Ulf thinks that it is important that ambulance services receive input from outside, especially from abroad. He is himself an ambulance nurse and also works as training coordinator at BAS. He sees co-operation with the University as instructive and valuable.

"It’s nice to be able to show what we do. All the staff think that it’s good fun and a source of inspiration to have students here. We get a lot out of it, giving us an insight into how they work and what differences there are between the two countries."

Last year, BAS had two Portuguese students and there will certainly be more foreign students in the future.

"It is important that we adopt a profile – unfortunately it is difficult to get staff. I would really like to see more people training to be ambulance nurses. It is demanding but extremely stimulating work."


Stuart Evans and Ruth Hodgson
Stuart Evans and Ruth Hodgson work as paramedics in the United Kingdom.
Tommy Berntsson
Tommy Berntsson, who is himself an ambulance nurse and also lecturer at the University, has taken the initiative to the exchange.  
Ulf Norling
Ulf Norling, ambulance nurse at BAS, has supervised Ruth and Stuart at the station.
Updated 2018-02-21