The professional soldier who became a professor

Anders Jonsson

It was during his paternity leave that he decided to change career paths and he took a short course in healthcare. His interest was piqued and he went on to train as an intensive care nurse and work in intensive care and ambulance services.

His research career began when he was offered a position at the then School of Nursing in Borås, which became part of the University of Borås in 1999. In 1997, Sweden's first specialist training for ambulance nurses started in Borås, which in turn made possible the doctoral education programme that exists today. In 1999, Anders Jonsson, together with Birgitta Wireklint Sundström and Björn-Ove Suserud, founded PreHospen - Centre for Prehospital Research, which is now Sweden's largest research centre in the field.

“At that time, there were not so many doctorate holders doing research on ambulance care; there was basically one person (Editor’s note: Björn-Ove Suserud) before me, and I did my doctorate in general medicine with a focus on ambulance care,” said Anders Jonsson.

Saw the same symptoms in paramedics as in veterans

But Anders Jonsson never completely abandoned his military path and he has served a significant amount overseas for the Swedish Armed Forces in war zones around the world.

“Early on, I became interested in ambulance staff and how they experience stress in the field. I could see that there were the same symptoms in ambulance staff as seen in veterans,” he said.

He earned his doctorate in the field of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with a doctoral thesis on stress in ambulance personnel. Since then, he has continued research on stress in firefighters, as well as on governance, management, and organisation in emergency medical services, disaster medicine, and crisis preparedness.

His interest in the interface between military and civilian healthcare is a common thread running through the research. Among other things, he is working on a project on leadership and triage in military conflicts, where he is showing how newly developed methods and techniques in civilian disaster medicine can be applied to military healthcare, as well. In another project, he is investigating how methods for training in a simulated environment can be developed and how training that is as realistic as possible can reduce the occurrence of harmful stress in healthcare workers.

Anders Jonsson's research has led to various expert assignments, including as a research advisor to the Swedish Armed Forces, an investigator for the National Board of Health and Welfare and Sweden's representative on NATO's Emergency Medicine Panel.

More equitable care with AI as a decision support tool

The subject of prehospital emergency care refers to all emergency healthcare provided outside hospitals. In many cases, it is crucial that the right decision is made quickly upon first meeting with the patient. Great demands are placed on the ambulance staff to be able to quickly decide where to send the patient and what care is needed on the way to the hospital. Anders Jonsson is currently leading a Swedish-Norwegian project that, among other things, is investigating how healthcare can be made more equal and more accurate using AI as a decision support tool.

“We often think we are better at making decisions than we are. AI can help us to be more accurate and equitable in our assessments and support our decisions, even if it is always the human being who has to make the decision," said Anders Jonsson.

By feeding patient data, such as blood pressure and pulse rate, into an artificial intelligence programme, an objective assessment of what treatment the person needs is created. AI can help us ensure that those who live far from a hospital with emergency services have access to equivalent care. The AI can also assess the condition of the patient, where the ambulance should transport the patient, and how fast it needs to go.

When Anders Jonsson started his research, the necessary technology was often not in place.

 “In one project, we investigated and photographed 800 accident sites. But we couldn't send the pictures in, so we had to take them to the emergency department for assessment. Then it became possible to send digital images directly from the scene of the accident via phone.

However, the project was stopped by the Västra Götaland Region (VGR) with reference to the handling of personal data – with hindsight, he concludes that they were 20 years too early.

Although technology has made great strides forward today and it is possible to use artificial intelligence as a decision support tool in healthcare, there is often a lack of legislation in the area and Anders Jonsson calls for more ethical discussions.

“When is human contact needed? When does a patient feel abandoned? For me, it is important that the patient is always at the centre. We are at the beginning of this and we know very little. The next phase is application as well as examining the patient experience. In the future, I hope that AI as a decision support tool will lead to more time for the doctor to meet with the patient. In addition, I hope that we can create shared, smarter, and more automated medical record systems," said Anders Jonsson.

Research is a crucial part of society

Anders Jonsson has a keen interest in society and is himself a municipal politician. He sees research as a crucial part of our society.

“We researchers can sometimes be bad at communicating our research. At the same time, we may be researching something that no one is interested in right now. The problem is that we don't know what will be needed in the future. Many times it is the things we discover that we weren’t looking for that prove to be most important. Several Nobel Prize winners have testified to this," he said.

The big challenge in research, he says, is the constant chasing of research funding. Another challenge is the implementation of the research.

“When it comes to emergency medicine research, funding is hard to come by, and this is also true in Caring Science. At the same time, we need funds to implement the research and thus demonstrate its benefits," he said.

His main motivation as a researcher is curiosity and the opportunity to work across professional boundaries.

“For me, going to work has never been boring. I enjoy working in inter-professional teams. In the military, the ability to work in teams and with different professions is crucial. The same goes for our research in PreHospen, where we have different backgrounds as ambulance nurses, doctors, engineers, or information scientists. It means being questioned and constantly gaining new perspectives on research," said Anders Jonsson.

Anders Jonsson

Title: Professor of Prehospital Emergency Medicine
Doctoral thesis title and year: Stress after traumatic events: The everyday life of ambulance staff (2004)
What do you prefer to do when you have a day off? Spend time with the family and the dog, be out in nature or sailing, or do political work

Researcher Profile Anders Jonsson - University of Borås (

PreHospen - Centre for Prehospital Research 

Research area: the Human Perspective in Care