Finland hires Spanish nurses

Finland has actively started to search work force for health care. The aim is to find professionals within European Union when the Finnish health care staff retires.  There is a growing number of elderly people and not enough young professionals to take care of them. Now nearly 4,000 Spanish nurses have applied to come to work in Finland. The weak economic situation and the high unemployment have driven them to seek work abroad.

 Various projects are going on both in western and eastern Finland. An example of these projects is coordinated by the Satakunta Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY). Project started on 2008 and will go on until 2013.

– There are many nurses (in Spain) who have work experience and know English. Certainly some of them are capable of working in Finland, says the project coordinator Samuli Jalkanen from ELY to the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE.

According to a project coordinator in eastern Finland project Heikki S. von Hertzen, some towns are facing severe lack of work force.

–This year we will survive, but first very difficult year is 2013. We should find a follower to each retiring nurse and hire even more staff, he says to YLE.

Job abroad is a solution

High unemployment forces people to search jobs abroad. In Spain the unemployment rate has risen up to 23.3 percent. Finland’s unemployment rate was at 7.5 percent in January 2012.

Traditionally there have been EU laborers from Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland in Finland. They work as welders, metal workers, farm workers and nurses. Also in these countries the unemployment rate is over the European Union average. At the moment there are approximately 1,800 Spanish citizens in the country. Even if half of the applicants were hired, it would enlarge this group notably.

On the other hand, in Finland approximately 150 000 new employees are needed by 2020, because of the demographic changes, warns Ministry of Employment and the Economy of Finland. One solution to this is migration within European Union.

Foreign work force welcomed

The representative of Finnish practical nurses SuPer welcome foreign work force, but requires that they get sufficient training. A Trade Union representative Leena Kaasinen-Parkatti says that it is the employer who is then responsible for training the European migrant employees.  

– The employers must realize that it is on their responsibility to take care of the language skills of the nurses. In this job you need to speak Finnish.

However, the ongoing project includes three to six months training for them in Spain. Kaasinen-Parkatti also talks about the importance of ethical recruitment according to the WHO (World Health Organization). It means that the employment benefits are the same for everybody and there is no commission fees paid for recruiting. She also highlights that a person should get work which corresponds his/her education.

– These Spanish nurses have the training of a nurse and now here they should work as practical nurse, there is a difference. Of course they have to familiarize themselves with the culture and language first, Kaasinen-Parkatti says.

In Spain this arrangement has caused heated discussion. According to the local newspaper El Correo, people in Bilbao feel that Finland now steals the best professionals from them. 

Finnish nurses employed in other sectors

Kaasinen-Parkatti also points out that the work field is not very appealing to the Finnish practical nurses at the moment.

–At the same time there are 30 000 educated Finnish practical nurses who don’t work in their own field of education.  This is most likely due to the fact that the job of a practical nurse is not very appealing because of the shift work, low salaries and heavy work load shared with too little staff.

The whole health care sector should be made more attractive to the educated professionals. More and more nurses are needed in Finland because of the retirement of current staff. Foreign work force must then replace them.



Ministry of Employment and Economy, YLE News Satakunta, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in the province of Satakunta, Statistics Centre of Finland, Eurostat, Trade union of nurses in Finland


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