The first “thing” greeting me, when walking into my new (temporary) place of work, was a horse……..to be precise, a pretty large red one, made of paper mache.
It was the centre piece of the communal area of the hospital, where I had my introductory meeting with Jessica, one of the senior vets, who is also the contact person for the temporary staff.
The red horse is probably one of the most iconic Swedish decorations and the wooden versions, which can be bought as souvenirs, are produced in this region.
Jessica and – according to her – the whole team at the clinic, was not only proud of the horse and the local heritage, but also of the warm and welcoming atmosphere in this area. There were long tables, illuminated by a warm light and there was a large, clean and modern kitchen, stocked with a range of bread and spreads and a well working coffee machine – all for communal use.
“We have a stressful job and it is important that we have a place to relax from time to time…..”
I couldn’t have agreed more and I felt that it was a good start to see that the wellbeing of the team was a central concern.
Becoming a member of this team turned out to be much easier than I had expected: most of the treatment of the animals (with the exception of the operations and invasive diagnostic procedures) was done by the very skilled nursing team and the only thing I had to do, was to make the decisions!….
Like magic blood samples were taken and blood test results arrived, X-Rays were taken and patients were placed on i/v fluids…..
My main initial fight was – as in other clinics before – getting once again used to a new computer system. Here an added obstacle was to make sense out of the clinical notes which – of course – where all in Swedish. My Norwegian was of some help and the rest was – if necessary – subjected to a Google translation which together with an initial report by one of the nurses (who always see a patient first) put you in the picture.
The consultation were then conducted – after checking with the clients first – in English, or with older clients in a mixture of Swedish and Norwegian. Any remaining question were – once again – resolved by the magical nurses.
It also helped that in the beginning I was spending a lot of time in the operating theatre where a fair amount of my case load involved the treatment of womb infections and the removal of mammary tumors. Both were uncommon procedures at my clinic in Virginia Water, as most of the female dogs in the UK are spayed at an early age, so that the development of these conditions is not possible or at least is highly unlikely.
Another difference to the work in the UK was the continuity of care: with most clients living within a 10 mile radius, it was both sensible and easy to book a follow up appointment in a couple of days. In Falun a lot of the clients had also traveled 5 – 10 “miles”, but these were Scandinavian miles, which are 10 km/mile. In addition to this, the journey might have involved a considerable distance traveled on untarmacked roads and at sub-zero temperatures and often on ice or snow. The treatment plan had to take this into account…..
Something I also found challenging was the great reluctance to use antibiotics and the inability to dispense medication – something that is the same in all the Nordic countries.
Regarding the antimicrobials – I found it an absolute eye-opener to see how well a lot of cases were doing without using them, but it is still early days and as mentioned above, there are far less follow up checks and my patients are living in a far less crowded environment.
The issue that I could not send my patients home with the medication for the follow on treatment (these have to be collected with a prescription from the local pharmacy) drives me at times up the wall, especially on a weekend (when the pharmacies were closed) or if more unusual medication were prescribed.
All in all – what an interesting time and what a wonderful opportunity to see first hand how the work I have done for so many years, can be done in a different and at times in a better or more effective way…..
To be continued……..