Different cultures but a mutual goal

2nd July 2012 03:56 p.m.

Helen Jones

Day 29: Berlin
I had a couple of hours this morning before meeting up with the other HOPE participants so I went by tram into Alexanderplatz. I took the elevator up to the top of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower). It’s the highest building in Berlin at 368 metres. The viewing platform is at a height of 203 metres. If you want to find out more go to:
www.tv-turm.de/en/index.php

I next walked to Nikolaiviertel. It is probably the oldest part of Berlin. The church is the oldest in the city, originally built in 1230, and is now a museum. Outside the church stands a statue of a bear, the symbol of the city (Baerlein = little bear). Much of the area was destroyed during the war, but in the 1980s, the area began to be reconstructed and is now a combination of historical buildings and replicas. Also in the area is the Heinrich Zille Museum. Zille was known as the ‘gutter artist from Berlin’ in his day was the artist and illustrator who best portrayed the everyday life of ordinary Berliners between the 1890s and 1920s.

Back at the hotel I met up with the group to finalise our presentation. We spent a couple of hours doing this and giving Pieter the chance to practice presenting our collective work. I also met up with the other HOPE participants from the UK and gave the UK Coordinator some feedback about our experiences. She reminded us that we were expected to complete a report on our experience by the end of June.

In the evening there was a welcome event for all the HOPE participants. We gathered on the 6th floor lounge on the sun terrace where we were treated to traditional German food, wine and beer and views over Berlin. To appreciate the view further, after the event we visited the Sky Bar on the 14th floor.

Day 30: Day 1 Conference
The Conference was opened by Mr Georg Baum, the President of HOPE (European Hospital and Healthcare Federation - its acronym is HOPE: Hospitals for EurOPE). Then the German Federal Minister for Health, Mr. Daniel Bahr, MdB, (the equivalent of Andrew Lansley) Tom Dolan: the president of the International Hospital Federation, and we were also joined (from Brussels via video link) by Mr. John Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Health who stated that “It is imperative that we make active and healthy aging a new way of life, address current and future shortages of the EU health workforce and boost job creation in the health sector.

This theme ran through the next two keynote presentations. First up was Ms Professor Rita Süssmuth, Former President of the German Bundestag (the German Parliament) who discussed ‘healthy aging, challenges and potential of increased life expectancy. She started her presentation with some of the European demographic data and her key messages were focused on cooperation between states, finding one’s role in society, looking for the potential in people and the importance of life-long learning.

She was followed by Mr Josep Figueras, Director of the EU Observatory on health systems who discussed population ageing and the challenge for hospitals in Europe. He talked about the fact that a declining working age population will generate less income for health and pension systems and discussed the idea that although ageing might increase the demand for hospital services, it can also be said that it is the proximity of death that drives the use of health care and expenditure rather than ageing itself. The ‘cost of dying’ is lower in the oldest age groups, possibly because those individuals who live the longest are also comparatively healthier. For an interesting policy briefing visit here.

Before lunch there was a moderated podium discussion where the themes of innovation in health care, patients as active partners, integration of hospitals with the wider health systems and better workforce planning generated lots of discussion. After lunch there was a choice of two parallel sessions, one on ageing patients and the other on ageing workforce. I chose the latter and liked the illustration using cows presented by Juhani Ilmarinen. He talked about safeguarding work and efficiency of an ageing health workforce in hospitals. See illustration here.

If you are interested, all the presentations and a lot of useful reports are available for you to read at: www.hospage.eu/welcome.html

The evening ended with a gala dinner and the opportunity to meet up with the 150 HOPE participants and hear about their experiences in the other 19 European countries that were also visited during this year’s HOPE exchange programme.

Day 31 Day 2 Conference
Today the conference started with a keynote speaker, Ms Anine Linder (Project Manager of the Netzwerk Erfolgsfaktor Familie (Network Success Factor Family, Germany) who talked about a network of organisations in Germany who are trying to support employees who also have additional ‘caring roles’ and provide information and services about the reconciliation of work and family life. In her presentation she talked about creating a supporting infrastructure to support carers and a corporate culture, which enables employees to be successful and to take care of dependants.

The remainder of the conference focused on the HOPE Exchange Programme and each of the 20 countries visited had 15 minutes to present a summary of their experiences in different health care settings, some of the challenges each country faces and some of the solutions. There is not enough space to summarise all of these in this post, but you can view each of the country presentations and in due course a full report available at: www.hospage.eu/welcome.html

You probably won’t be surprised to hear there are similar challenges across Europe and some similar thoughts about solutions. For our presentation we chose to focus on a number of projects and services that we had visited and which we felt, had achieved a positive impact on the older person’s pathway through health care.

In the evening we all attended a farewell reception, which was held at Berlin’s Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste). This impressive glass fronted building overlooks the Bradenberg Gate and the reception took place on the top floor with its open balcony. It was here we could watch the German football fans make their way to the other side of the gate to watch on the giant screens their team beat Holland.

Day 32 Returning Home
This was my last day in Berlin. We had said our goodbyes the evening before as many of the participants left early this morning to return home. My flight was not until the afternoon so gave me a chance to do some sightseeing. I set off on foot and visited a number of landmarks including Hackescher Markt. The Hackeschen Höfe is a series of inner courtyards built for housing, shops and workshops. It is here you can find a small shop dedicated to ‘Ampelman’. He was developed by the traffic psychologist Karl Pegla, and designed to gain the attention of children in road traffic by means of his sympathetic manner.

Find out more at http://ampelmannshop.com/History

Final Thoughts
When I set off for Sweden 5 weeks ago I was not too sure what to expect. I was worried about not knowing the language – there was no need since everyone spoke perfect English – I can manage a few words of Swedish too – very few is the operative word! I was concerned that I would be a burden and not much of a resource for my hosts, who had to look after me as well as do their day-jobs. If I was, they never showed it and I was made to feel so very welcome where I went. I was worried about being teamed up with a co-delegate from another country. I needn’t have worried. Christoph, was a hand-surgeon who now spends most of his time managing hospital services and was a great partner and friend. It also helped that he too spoke perfect English!

I had not expected that it would be so intensive. As I discovered when I met the other participants in Berlin, we did not stop listening, learning and sharing our work experiences in a different country and cultural setting from when we began the day (usually at 7.30am each morning) until when we finished the planned activities which was normally not until late.

Perhaps the best thing about the exchange was the chance to meet colleagues and patients from other cultures and to discover, thankfully, that despite the many differences in health care provision, service funding, demographic need and scale of geographic areas; ultimately we were all grappling with very similar challenges. We were all doing our best to provide appropriate services, respect patents’ dignity and life choices as they age and above all (in northern Europe), doing this with a workforce that is itself ageing.

It is perhaps this last point, which I think is a cause for hope and optimism. This is because in recognising that each one of us is on a personal continuum of ageing, it should be easier to put ourselves in the place of those we have to care for. By doing that we have the opportunity each working day, to reflect upon, try to improve and hopefully embed the kind of service that we would like to receive when it comes to our turn to need care.

Tack för att du läser min blogg. Jag hoppas att du fann det intressant.

(Thank-you for reading my blog. I hope you found it interesting.)

Filed under: Swedish Health Exchange

Helen Jones

Helen_Jones

Helen Jones is a Service Manager working in Older People Mental Health. She is currently working in a hospital in Sweden as part of health exchange and is blogging to tell people about her experience.

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