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Psychology students help physically ill patients

Patients receiving care for physical ailments can now also get psychological help. This is thanks to cooperation between the psychology programme, Faculty of Health Sciences and the University Hospital (U.S.).

“The medical and the psychological ways of thinking represent different approaches to patients and treatment. The two approaches have not always been reconcilable as both sides have been stuck in old traditions. But there is a great need for psychological expertise in health care and this is a step in the right direction”, says Per-Olof Svedin, faculty programme director at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and one of the initiators of the cooperation.

In practice the cooperation means psychology students now undertake practical placements on the two teaching wards at U.S., which are run by students, including future doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. With guidance from the regular staff the students are completely responsible for the patients on the two wards (one orthopaedic and one geriatric ward), and learn to work together across professional boundaries. Psychology students were not previously a part of this project.

“They are usually given work placements on general psychiatric or child and youth psychiatric wards. But now, through being given the opportunity to practice on wards where patients with physical ailments are cared for they can present their knowledge in a different way and show that they can be useful too. In addition, they learn to interact with the other student groups in a very real way. It is good to get used to working in teams across professions, this will be crucial in the work ahead”, says Per-Olof Svedin.

This spring psychology student Linnea Tufvesson became the first student on the programme to have a two week practical placement on the teaching ward of the orthopaedic centre.

“I think it has been very instructive. It is good to see how the somatic treatment works and to see what I as a psychologist can offer patients with physical illnesses and what I can contribute to the health care team. I have had conversations with patients who have had difficulties, for example, with anxiety after being notified of tumours or when facing disability after an injury, and with older patients who have had thoughts about their own death”, says Linnea Tufvesson.

One obstacle, however, is that it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with patients when they are in a room with other patients, she points out.

“The most fruitful conversations were with those who were in a single room.”

Linnea Tufvesson welcomes the cooperation with the University Hospital.

“Health care has long been focused on purely the physical aspect, but maybe the tide is beginning to turn. Psychologists are increasingly present at primary health care centres. There is definitely a need; depression for example, is today one of our major diseases.”


Therese Winder 2009-05-19




Page manager: therese.winder@liu.se
Last updated: 2009-06-03