Finnish is one of Sweden’s unofficial languages that has received a minority status and therefore a jurisdiction in certain parts of the country. This means that Finnish-speaking people living in the jurisdiction area are entitled to receiving services in Finnish language.
TAMK’s Swedish language lecturer, Sari Myllymäki, read an interview of Antti Yliselä, the planning officer of national minorities in Gothenburg, Sweden, and came up with the idea for cooperation.
In addition to the clinical work, the students also had planned versatile activities beforehand for the retirees at a leisure time center.
She arranged a trip to Gothenburg in February 2014, and took two of TAMK’s senior lecturers of healthcare, Elina Botha and Terhi Pekkinen, with her, both of whom had prior experience of Sweden.
The trip included visiting Finnish-speaking institutes, like elderly homes, a facility for homeless addicts, a leisure time center for the retired, a local parish, a Finnish school and a private home care center.
This trip sparked an idea of a research and development project “Ageing Safely in a Foreign Country”.
Invaluable experience prior to practical training
– People’s wellbeing and health is increased, when they receive services in their own language; this applies particularly to people with memory challenges, but the project goes beyond that: it’s based on the need for different groups to revive their Finnish language, Botha explains.
At the moment, the project is in preparation and TAMK is searching for funders in cooperation with the City of Gothenburg.
– We got a suggestion to go on a short exchange with our students, already during this preparation stage, Botha mentions.
The exchange was made possible in April 2015, when Botha and Pekkinen took 22 first-year nursing students on a one-week-long study trip to Gothenburg to apply TAMK’s already established Living Lab model to a new environment.
At TAMK, Living Lab is comprehended as a user-oriented, open innovations’ ecosystem that takes place in a real-life environment. Living Lab has been in operation for over a year in Koukkuniemi’s nursing home in Tampere, where TAMK’s students are able to do some authentic training before their official practical training.
Working alongside the local instructors
During the week in Gothenburg, the students worked for five days. They participated in all aspects of care work with the help of the local instructors:
– We were there only to support them, by assuring and guiding them, Pekkinen explains.
The most important thing for Pekkinen and Botha, however, was to get the cooperation up and running and guarantee the learning process for the students.
– Things are moving forward and I feel it is safe to say that the cooperation will continue, Pekkinen says.
“We brought them a part of their youth, their home and that is something nobody else there could offer them.”
Botha sees the project also as an opportunity for interdisciplinary cooperation inside TAMK:
– We could benefit, for example, from modern ICT solutions, when it comes to communication and language tools used later in this project.
It takes courage to participate
In addition to the clinical work, the students also had planned versatile activities beforehand for the retirees at a leisure time center. Activities varied from Finland and music related quizzes to health promotion guidance, and one of the activities included a map of Finland, where everyone could put a sticker on a place that had personal importance to them.
– There was a lot of valuable interaction between the students and the locals. It couldn’t be controlled like a classroom environment, so the students needed to fully immerse themselves. It takes courage to participate in something like this, Botha notes.
TAMK’s ”delegation” was warmly welcomed at all locations on their stay, and especially elderly people were very much moved and touched:
– They were excited and wouldn’t have let us leave. We brought them a part of their youth, their home and that is something nobody else there could offer them, smiles Pekkinen.
TEXT: ESSI KANNELKOSKI
PHOTOS: ELINA BOTHA, TERHI PEKKINEN