Throughout 2020, we will be highlighting the Queen Silvia Nursing Awards partners that bring the scholarship to life in their respective regions.

Currently in its 6th year, The Queen Silvia Nursing Award motivates nursing students in Germany, Finland, Poland, and Sweden to contribute to the quality of life and care of the elderly and people living with a dementia diagnosis. This program is made possible by the dedication and commitment of partners with a firm focus on the growth of nursing talent and nursing opportunities.

One of the Queen Silvia Nursing Award’s newer partners in Finland is Föreningen Konstsamfundet r.f. Translated literally as “The Art Foundation Association” Konstsamfundet is most renowned for owning and operating Finland’s largest private art museum, Amos Rex, located in central Helsinki; as well as owning the country’s highest-circulating Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. How does an organization deeply vested in Finnish arts, culture and literature come to support nursing talent? We spoke with Konstsamfundet’s CEO Stefan Björkman to find out.

Konstsamfundet has quite a diverse impact throughout Finnish society. Could you tell us a little more about it?

Ultimately, what Konstsamfundet supports today has its roots in the personal interests of Mr. Amos Anderson (1878-1961), the gentleman who founded our association. Mr. Anderson was the son of a farmer, who later became a publisher, an MP, a patron of the arts, and a major supporter of everyday Swedish-language life in Finland.

Mr. Anderson was well aware of the power of language, and especially interested in keeping the Swedish-language alive in Finland. Furthermore, his fortune was self-made, which he attributed to his time at a vocational school in Åbo studying commerce. It was from that basis that Mr. Anderson was able to carve a diverse career and prospects for himself. For Mr. Anderson, practical training was important and a powerful lever to create these opportunities.

Konstsamfundet was the only entity to have inherited Mr. Anderson’s fortune as he had no children. Managing this association over the years has not always been a linear journey but today, we have managed to grow the inheritance significantly. With that, we give grants of approximately Euros 11-12 million annually to the arts, Swedish-language interests as well as vocational training in Finland – all in honor of Mr. Anderson’s beliefs and interests.

Could you tell us more about your engagement with vocational training?

Vocational training is of great interest to Konstsamfundet as we know that Mr. Anderson attributed his success to his vocational training days as a young man in Åbo. He believed in the power of practical knowledge and the impact it could have on the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland.

Our ambition today at Konstsamfundet is to drive quality and inspiration into vocational training and to elevate it as much as possible. With the Queen Silvia Nursing Award, we found a great way to lift nursing talent and the nursing profession in Finnish society. We know that nurses are critical to Finland, if not all countries, and with the changing demographic challenges, we need to advance the opportunities for nursing talent within elderly care as much as possible. We believe that reframing a future in nursing as one that is defined by creativity, impact, and meaningful human interaction is not just good for the Queen Silvia Nursing Award applicants or the winner. It is good for all of us in Finland.

We need to advance the opportunities for nursing talent within elderly care as much as possible.

Stefan Björkman, CEO, Konstsamfundet

(Photo credit: Jani Laukkanen)

What is your view on the need for nurses within elderly care in particular in Finland?

Aside from my CEO role at Konstsamfundet, I have also been the Chairman of a private healthcare company for the past 10 years.

When you look at the numbers, you realize quickly that elderly care requirements have increased dramatically in Finland. We’re not really ready to meet those demands. Our society risks being overwhelmed, and we need to open a lot more avenues for development in tech and talent to address this challenge.

With resources stretched and people stressed, we need to find unique and innovative ways from both the public system and the private sector to demonstrate there is value within care and nursing. If we don’t change and adapt how we attract talent, then young people are going to make their own decision by opting out. We won’t be able to survive by being complacent. The Queen Silvia Nursing Award is one dynamic and important way for us to reach out, address this issue and work with many stakeholders to address the challenge of elderly care needs in Finland.

Konstsamfundet has been a Finnish Queen Silvia Nursing Award partner for the past two years. Tell me about a little bit about your experiences so far?

I must say that being an engineer, and hearing some of the amazing ideas at last year’s Grand Ceremony in Stockholm did bring a tear to my eye. These are important issues for us to address, and innovation in elderly care is essential for not only the elderly who could potentially receive the service, but also the talent who come up with these ideas.

For me, when I speak of innovation, I view it as a social tool that lets people work a little more easily with a little better results. Technology is a good enabler, but it is not necessarily the showpiece. Really great innovation is when the tech is invisible. You don’t have to describe it or see it to understand it. It just “is” and everyone “gets” it.

In terms of care, we can apply the same premise. At its core, care is human interaction. The ideas celebrated by the Queen Silvia Nursing Award programs are all clever in that they seamlessly meld heart and tech, and I think that’s great. It doesn’t have to be contradictory or an either-or paradox. They are ideas driven by the heart with a human interest at its center, simply made accessible with tech.

This year’s winner, Janina Viitasaari’s idea is a great example. She’s taken a tool that is already in existence but has never been seen through the lens for elderly or dementia care. We need to encourage more thinkers like Janina to keep these ideas coming in.

Amos Rex
Helsinki’s Amos Rex is a private art museum whose construction and operations are funded by Mr. Amos Anderson’s Föreningen Konstsamfundet r.f.
(Source: Konstsamfundet r.f.)

What else is in the works for Konstsamfundet?

Our mission is ultimately to make Finnish society a little bit better. I think that this shift in demographics and the stress on our current healthcare system is a top issue that we need to work together to address. Nursing is fundamentally part of that equation because we can’t talk about care without talking about the people who are providing that critical skill and expertise.

We at Konstsamfundet want to collaborate and find opportunities with organizations that have a clear idea of driving change and lifting opportunities. We believe that the Queen Silvia Nursing Award is a unique platform for us to motivate this discussion in Finland and change the atmosphere to one of possibilities and growth.