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Gerd Ahlström is Professor of Caring Sciences at Lund University and Director of the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences (Vårdalinstitutet). She received her first professorship in 2003 (in Nursing, Örebro University) and had previously had several commissions as academic leader within higher education and research.
She is doing research on the situation of persons living with chronic illness, studied from a family perspective. One of the aims of this research is to increase the understanding of what problems and strains the patients and their relatives face in everyday life. Another aim is to investigate the patients´ perceived quality of life and their own capabilities and resources when it comes to handling difficult life situations caused by illness. Some of the research projects are based on interventions using tailor-made care programmes with the emphasis on patient education and complementary methods such as Qigong. The knowledge gained from this research was the basis for improving the quality of care at three hospitals. Multi-disciplinary research methods are being used for the purpose of gaining a broad perspective on the changes brought about by chronic illness in the lives of both the patients and their families. There are significant losses to endure, especially in the case of a disease with a progressive course. The theory of chronic sorrow has been helpful in elucidating the patients´ losses and the accompanying sorrow. Models of nursing need to be developed so that the most appropriate help can be provided for the patients and their families. The understanding of particular contexts for healthcare delivery and the science of clinical practice have often been overlooked in healthcare. For this reason, an ongoing research project within the programme "Bridging the gaps" concerns quality improvement of renal health care. Other ongoing project concern ethical dilemmas with regard to the nursing of persons severely ill and dependent on a personal assistant, and interactive processes in health care when a nursing home for people with different diagnoses is to be changed into one providing care for people with dementia (this care involving respect for the patient's dignity and giving the patient a sense of security). Currently she participates in an EU funded study "Quaser" on quality and safety in European Union hospitals and the researcher teams will carry out ten case studies of quality and safety improvement efforts.