From war and gender to the ethics of care

The step from war to care can seem big and difficult to take, but not for Anna T. Höglund. Her research is focused on nursing and care, not too different from the ideals of peace: making sure no one is hurt.

Anna T. HöglundAnna T. Höglund is a senior lecturer in nursing ethics and gender studies. Her research deals with justice and equal access to care in situations ranging from priorities in health care to gender as a factor in health care decision making. She is also looking at ethical competence and tries to help future nurses develop it.

According to Anna T. Höglund, it is important that health care staff learn ethical competence when they train for their future profession. She started her career as a senior high school teacher in Swedish, History, Religion and French. The interest in pedagogy has followed her throughout her career. In her teaching, she puts emphasis on the principle of human dignity and equality, which is at the heart of Swedish health care ethics. This principle is also the criterion for deciding what needs to be done. Interventions should be assessed on the basis of medical needs, and not on factors such as age or socio-economic status. But, she says, it is equally important to develop the student’s ethical competence:

“I want to help students acquire a basic ability to identify ethical dilemmas in health care and a decent knowledge base to be able to make the trade-offs between different values that are necessary in their future work”, says Anna T. Höglund

Those trade-offs are not new to Anna T. Höglund. In 2001, she defended a thesis that put women’s experiences of war against traditional justifications of military violence. She also spent a year at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala, writing a book on gender and the war on terrorism in light of the 9/11 events in the US. She has continued to lecture on gender, military violence and ethics and is still involved in gender research. This led her to an exciting commitment to work as adviser to the Vice-chancellor of Uppsala University on issues of equal treatment. According to Anna T. Höglund, this task has made her aware that there is still a lot of work needed if we are ever to reach equality in the academic world:

“There are often several factors that have synergy effects in discrimination, for example gender and ethnicity. This is why I believe it is important to have an integrated approach, or, as we say in gender research, an intersectional perspective”, says Anna T. Höglund.

Right now, Anna T. Höglund is working together with colleague Sara Holm to find out whether pretend play can help children with cancer become more involved in their care, and if pretend play can increase their wellbeing and reduce their pain. These children are rarely involved in their treatment and care. And hospital staff is not always in agreement on whether it is good for children to be involved in their own care. A pilot project with support from the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation (Barncancerfonden) showed that the play intervention worked well. In several cases it seemed to have the intended effect and improved the children’s ability to communicate with hospital staff. She recently received another 900 000 SEK from the Foundation for a three year full scale project that will also look at whether this method can help the children increase their participation, their emotional repertoire  and communication skills in the care situation.  

Children are a particularly vulnerable group in health care and this project is in line with Anna T. Höglund’s previous research with a focus on justice and vulnerable groups in society.

“As a teacher and researcher, I believe it is important to stand up for all people’s equal value and rights, given the times and the society we live in today. We can’t take democratic values for granted. They need to be won over and over again”, says Anna T. Höglund.

About Anna T. Höglund

Anna T. Höglund received her PhD from the Department of Theology at Uppsala University in 2001. Her thesis dealt with how traditional ethical theories justify the use of military violence under certain circumstances. By contrasting that with women’s experiences of war, Anna T. Höglund showed that women’s perspectives are often lacking and that society’s views on violence are intertwined with its views on gender.

2004-2005 she was a guest researcher at the Centre for Gender Research at Uppsala University

She received a grant from the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation for a three year project on pretend play for children with cancer. The project builds on a pilot study that shows this play intervention can improve children’s ability to communicate with hospital staff.

Josepine Fernow 2016-03-08