Barcelona, 19th June 2018
We are Isabel Romo and Isabel Casado, two nurses from Spain who have been participants in the 2018 Hope European Exchange Program. This program is run annually in every European country during the month of May. It was created in 1966 with the aim of exchanging experiences among healthcare professionals in Europe to mutually learn from each other and thus improve healthcare systems. Isabel Romo works in the Hospital Clínico of Valladolid, in the specialty of Internal Medicine, and I work in a Primary Care center in Castelldefels, Barcelona.
On Monday the 21st of May we arrived at Palanga Rehabilitation Hospital. We had been in Kaunas Klinikos Hospital for the previous two weeks and we were now going to be based in Palanga Rehabilitation Hospital for a week.
There were several aspects of the organization of Rehabilitation services in the NHS of Lithuania that really impressed us since they are so much different to our country. Firstly, the possibility some patients have to be admitted three consecutive years for different periods of time after the first rehabilitation period. This allows patients to benefit from high intensity rehabilitation programs provided by multidisciplinary healthcare professionals. We were also admired at the rehabilitation programs for level 1 and level 2 patients. In Spain Rehabilitation is provided basically in outpatient services for different periods of time depending on patient’s needs, and do not offer such wide range of multidisciplinary therapies and high technology procedures. Only level 3 patients in Spain are admitted in highly specialized rehabilitation hospitals, and also elderly patients with rehabilitation needs who have no caregivers at home. In Spain there is a growing need for rehabilitation services that is not currently being met by our public healthcare system.
We have been also greatly surprised at the Vocational Rehabilitation programs offered to patients while they are admitted. They are initially orientated by a psychologist who assesses patients individually and designs the professional rehabilitation program. They can learn or improve IT skills, handcraft activities, hairdressing or tailoring among others.
The integration of these broad rehabilitation services that go beyond meeting pure healthcare needs to embrace also working needs adapted to their new life situation has truly impressed us. We consider that such comprehensive rehabilitation services are key to reduce patients’ need for medication and also to empower them towards autonomy and self-confidence.
Another aspect of this hospital that we found really interesting is the possibility for patients to receive further periods of treatment in the form of “Vacational Rehabilitation”, as a private service. They can still get the same high quality multidisciplinary care for as long as they wish, according to their economic possibilities.
It has been very interesting for us to meet a former patient on wheelchair: Vilija Mirimaviciené, who is currently fully integrated in the hospital healthcare team becoming a key member to empower patients on wheelchair to become as much independent as possible. We would really like to integrate this experience in our healthcare services. We have chosen this example in the Agora Conference in Stockholm, where all participants in the Hope Exchange Program this year were asked to provide experiences showing how the quality of our healthcare systems can be improved by considering patient’s experiences and competences. Vilija’s example in Palanga Rehabilitation Hospital has been a very clear representative of this year’s topic.
But we have also witnessed some needs in this hospital. We consider that more nurses and nurse assistants are needed to provide adequate nursing care to patients and prevent burnout among these professionals. This is even more evident in the care of the more dependent patients. Nurses and nurse assistants are 24 hours with patients, and this shortage can affect their health and emotional wellbeing.
However, despite this hard work, we have seen a high level of commitment and pride among nurses and nurse assistants in relation to the task they are doing. Patients appear very happy with the care they receive, and this is clear since they choose coming back to this hospital year after year from any part of Lithuania.
Finally, we want to thank honestly all the kindness, patience, time and love we have received from all the people we have had contact with in Palanga Rehabilitation Hospital. We really appreciate your generosity and time added to your daily duties. We know it is not easy especially when you are working, and patients need you.
We keep wonderful memories in our hearts and will always thank you for the beautiful moments we have lived in Palanga. You have made us feel at home.
We wish you all the best and hope to see you again either in Palanga, Valladolid or Barcelona,
Isabel Romo and Isabel Casado
June 19th ,2018