Thomas Wihlman, kulturjournalist

Nulla dies sine linea...

A nurse and Anna Lindh

It was one of 37 interviews. We sat down at a large table across from each
other. I was a little surprised. I did not know that people so young worked in
this type of job. She bubbled with energy and enthusiasm. “I have an
amazing job – I’m learning every day. Some times when I find work badly. I
usually tell my colleagues and my boss about them, so maybe they think I’m
a bit outspoken.”

I listened to a lively, wise, insightful, warm story about what it was to
care for seriously ill patients, perhaps at the ends of their lives. “We also
accept patients from the hospital,” she said, “who believe they will
eventually be able to go home, and it sometimes does happen.”
I asked her whether she intended to study further, to become a manager
perhaps. She replied, “No, I’ll be working with people, nothing else. It will
probably be young people, having some addiction, next time. Probably, I
need to study more for it, but it is with people I’ll be working. Not becoming
a manager.” 


Anna Lindh, foto Ola Torkelsson

My reflection was, managers also work with people.
I have worked with ill people, sat at deathbeds, and her dedication moved
me. It was difficult to be a neutral interviewer trying to learn whether she
could develop her work, through innovation or otherwise.
Yes, she can. She and many others I met during the interview trip cited
impressive examples of innovation. A chef left a job as an assistant nurse to
work to make dinnertime the finest moment of the day for the demented or
just old. “I am testing the food on my family – it is my mission to be innovative.”
There were also occasional tired whiners. They are this way, not
necessarily because they are such people at heart, but because they have
never had a chance to develop their best sides at their workplaces.

Sometime afterwards, I realized what my encounter brought to mind. In
Uppsala, Sweden, in 1982, I was responsible for guiding two MPs, a young
woman and an older man, visiting the company where I was working. She
asked questions, listened, was extremely active and alert, well informed, and
genuinely pleasant. I immediately forgot the name of the elder MP. I never
forgot the young woman, Anna Lindh, who was brutally murdered in 2003
when she was Sweden’s foreign minister.

The young woman I was interviewing spoke and acted as Anna Lindh did
then – quick, witty, and analytical. What her path will be like, I do not know,
but I am confident that she will take creative chances and get to do what she
desires – something in health and care, something with old people,

Thomas Wihlman, (This is an excerpt, the coda, from my doctoral thesis Innovation in Municipal Welfare Services, Mälardalen University 2014)