Published: 19-03-2020 07:47 | Updated: 30-03-2020 16:13

Karolinska Institutet launches COVID-19 training for care providers and medical staff

Photo of nurse washing hands.
Karolinska Institutet has produced short online courses for medical and care providers who come in contact with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Karolinska Institutet has launched COVID-19 courses for care providers and medical personnel following a request from the National Board of Health and Welfare. After one week of intense preparation, two online courses are now available.

The courses aim to clarify guidelines and recommendations so that the staff can focus on their work with the patients.

“It’s been a very long week,” says Martina Gustavsson, a registered nurse and research administrator at the Department of Global Public Health.

A couple of days before the launch, she and her colleagues were putting the finishing touches to the training manuals. Johan von Schreeb, professor of disaster medicine and head of the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, rushes in with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell on the phone — different directives on waste management risk causing confusion and need to be resolved.

Everyone who has helped to prepare the courses have been working late hours and during the weekend, and are starting to run out of steam. Project manager Anneli Eriksson is multitasking as she simultaneously handles the other courses that the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters is already running.

Two online courses

Two online training courses have been produced in record time at the request of the National Board of Health and Welfare and will be included in the agency’s new national guidelines for dealing with COVID-19. The first is for all care providers regardless of profession, including those working in elderly care homes, home care, medical centres and hospitals. It describes the disease and how staff can best protect themselves, their patients and their facility from infection.

The other course is primarily for people working with patients, such as doctors, nurses and assistant nurses and focuses on how to put on and take off protective equipment and what to think about when caring for patients with COVID-19.

Martina Gustavsson, forskningshandläggare vid institutionen för global folkhälsa
Martina Gustavsson.

“I hope these courses can help to give care providers and medical staff a bit more peace of mind,” says Martina Gustavsson, who has led the project to produce the courses. “In crisis situations, you need someone who can take command and tell you what to do. If you’re working as a care provider, it’s disheartening to have to go round hunting for guidelines and information.”

Experience working with Ebola patients

Just like the others in the group, she has experience of working with viral diseases, including from Doctors Without Borders. She spent Christmas and New Year training in DR Congo, where she also worked with local staff handling Ebola patients.

“Thanks to this experience, we are relatively calm,” she says. “We’ve got clean water here, for instance, to wash our hands. You can see things differently.”

In spite of this, she acknowledges that it is hard for healthcare workers to handle diseases like COVID-19 in a structured and concerted manner. This is not so strange, she says, given that SARS-CoV-2 is a completely new virus about which much is still not known.

Sweden has also been relatively spared from viral diseases and is not that accustomed to handling situations like this swiftly and effectively. This is one of the reasons why courses like this are needed.

New for everyone

“Since this is a new disease, it’s new for everyone,” Martina Gustavsson says. “People working at infection clinics are used to working in infectious environments, and for them it’s probably nothing strange. But for others who aren’t familiar with personal protective equipment and don’t really know what to do, it can be a little distressing. So we think it’s a good idea to create these courses that bring together all the necessary information.”

The decision to create online courses was made quickly. Partly because it was deemed to be the fastest way to get information out to care providers and medical staff around the country, and partly because it can reduce the need to travel and to mix with large groups of people.

The courses are based on recommendations issued by the Public Health Agency and Vårdhygien Stockholm and have been produced in close cooperation with the authorities. They are now available on our web portal — — and are being distributed by the National Board of Health and Welfare to the country’s different regions.