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Foreign nurses in Slovakia - worth the gold

"According to OECD, NCZI, Eurostat and SK SaPA statistics, there is a shortage of 10,000-15,000 nurses and midwives in Slovakia," the Slovak Chamber of Nurses and Midwives (SKSaPA) concluded. Only 44 foreign nurses are registered in their registry. This shortage will be felt most acutely right now, when we are experiencing the coronavirus in Slovakia, and everyone is anxiously watching the development of the situation. We had a personnel collapse even before the epidemic, and it has been going on for several years.
Nurses are a very important unit in the treatment process, they probably spend the most time with the patient and are reliable assistants to doctors. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of nurses in Slovakia. They are not enough in huge numbers and so far the future does not look bright, since this problem has not been solved for a long time, and the population of Slovakia is aging. Before the election, we heard promises by the ruling party to increase the number of medical students, but nobody seems interested in nurses. Nobody has proposed to increase the number of students in schools where nurses are trained, nobody is discussing whether we can attract them from third countries, and we are in a situation where we lack 15,000 nurses, which is almost 3 times more than the shortage of doctors (5500). The position of SKSaPA simply explains why we do not want foreign nurses. In their opinion, proposals to attract candidates from outside the European Union to work in Slovak hospitals could ultimately negatively affect the quality of medical care. That is, all those who come from outside Slovakia are specialists of poor quality, and if they come, they will allegedly be worse.

Foreign nurses and statistics

Foreign nurses, as well as doctors from third countries, to get into the system, must undergo the procedure of recognition of education and professional examination, which was introduced in 2016 without the availability of mechanisms for training and management of the entire process. As a result, since 2016, only 28 foreign nurses have entered the system, mostly from Ukraine and Serbia. In total, 44 nurses from abroad are registered in the Slovak Nursing Chamber, which indicates not only that they are not interested in Slovakia, but also that our system prevents their arrival. Why is this happening? Why do we have a 70% increase in the number of employees from outside the EU, mainly from Ukraine and Serbia, but among them there are no nurses that we need so much?

Reasons why this is so

Historically, nurses from Ukraine are especially interested in Slovakia, because, unfortunately, in their home country they can only get a standard secondary education, as it was in Slovakia before joining the EU. However, such a system of education is not the rule in the world and has changed in most countries. Nurses with university education or nurses with higher professional education are in Serbia, Russia, Belarus, as well as India, Nepal, the Philippines and even, for example, in Zimbabwe. But as of 2016, we have only 3, that is, three, successful cases of recognition of the full qualification of a nurse, one copy from Chile, Serbia and India. Others were recognized as practical nurses.

Unfortunately, the situation with Ukrainians is different. The most they can achieve is recognition of their qualifications as a practical nurse, to which the medical assistants have recently been renamed. But because the whole process of recognition, even as a practical nurse, is so complex, expensive and opaque, they choose not to go through it and remain as support medical staff, in other words, orderlies or cleaners, without any motivation to stay in Slovakia and learn the language.

How we can attract nurses

First of all, we must recognize that it is impossible to solve the personnel crisis without nurses from third countries. Closing offices, reducing the quality of service and overloading staff is a reality in Slovakia today, even without coronavirus. In addition, it is important to understand that nurses from Ukraine are not the only solution, and they can only be counted on as practical nurses.

However, we have the opportunity to attract nurses from other countries where quality medical personnel are trained. We can attract them primarily by creating a clear system of arrival and recognition of qualifications. As in the case of doctors, an example for us can be the Czech Republic, where, for example, nursing schools offer a combined full-time form of education for foreign applicants. This is somewhat similar to our dual education, but in the sense that foreigners who have already undergone similar training abroad and can work in parallel with their studies will study. Thus, the possibilities of secondary schools can be used to quickly prepare foreign candidates for work in Slovakia. The possibility of professional internships can be extended to nurses.

The draft law on internships for foreign doctors has not yet been approved, but it provides for the possibility of internships under the guidance of a medical curator in inpatient institutions, but only for doctors, and not for nurses, which are three times more in the country. The internship could be a great opportunity to train medical professionals from abroad, not only doctors, but also nurses.

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