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How I became a nurse in Finland

How I became a nurse in Finland

Olen suomalainen myos sairaanhoitaja - I'm also a Finnish nurse.

My name is Kamila and I am a nurse. I graduated from the Medical University of Lublin where I studied for a master's degree and now I only have my thesis to defend. I have the right to practise my profession in Finland, and so I was able to find a job there.

How is it that I came to Finland? The story is very trivial. At my university there is a student exchange program: "Socrates-Erasmus". From the word go I really wanted to go on the exchange. Nursing studies, however, take a long time, which is why I decided to go on the exchange in the last year of my studies, when I knew that I could afford it. At the Medical University of Lublin there are several choices of countries where we can go. The decision was Finland, because the health service is of a high standard and it’s an exotic country for us — there were plenty of reasons. I came to a small town in the east of the country, a beautiful but desolate place located partly on the islands (Finland is a country of a thousand lakes!). I had few classes at college. It definitely took some getting used to. Eventually, I met a young man. And so it was. We decided after my return to Poland that flying to each other for a week every month was completely pointless. So that’s why I moved to the north.

I managed to get a translation of the documents I needed so that I could practise in Finland. Polish nurses who completed their studies after 2005 (probably, but I'm not sure) have equivalent degrees (bachelor - because they give you a licence to practise) to other nurses in the European Union. Poland has signed a mutual agreement with other countries on this issue. Therefore, in order to obtain a licence to practise in Finland, you don’t have to do any additional training or courses. I don’t know if the same applies to older nurses with a diploma.

The translated papers were sent along with everything else to the chief of the Finnish Chamber. In Finland, the Medical Board of Doctors and Nurses is one organization, called Valvira. Besides the fact that I had to wait a long time for a decision (about 4 months) and I had a small technical problem, I finally registered in the national register of nurses and midwives (you can check online whether a person has the right to practise). After paying 400 euros for the procedure I could collect my long-awaited paper. There was no end of joy.

Now, contrary to appearances, the remaining hard part - finding a job. Nursing in Finland and indeed the entire health system is of a high standard. It works very well. The demand for nurses is very high. Almost always, you can find a job in the profession in a place that will suit you. There is only one problem, a huge problem: the language. You can be almost certain that without the knowledge of at least communicative Finnish you can forget about work. Due to the fact that my Finn is also a nurse and we met in college, I have a very good overview of the Finnish education system and the nurses’ working system.

I can firmly and definitely say that Polish nursing studies are at a much higher level than Finnish. After moving to Finland I got rid of any complexes about my education. Finnish studies are single level: Bachelor. They last 3½ years and at the end, the bachelor’s thesis is written in groups. But this is not the only significant difference. Finnish college students do not learn well in anatomy, physiology, pathology, because all three of them are combined into one. In addition, nursing faculties, called Ammatikorkeakoulu, are equivalent to our polytechnic. Students can forget about any clinical activities (exercises or practical nursing classes), because there are no hospital facilities for them. Classrooms are equipped with incredibly life-like dummies but there are NO nursing clinical courses. Students only have nursing classes in subjects where they are taught in very general terms. There is, however, a lot of practice, but it usually involves only these three areas: internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics. I had friends who just before the end of study had never visited an intensive care unit, or other specialized units. A significant difference is that after obtaining a sufficient number of ECTS credits (cannot remember exactly how many) students might not work in all locations where nurses are employed. In this way, staffing problems during holiday periods are solved, although students don’t have the ability to carry out all orders, such as intravenous drug administration. They are indispensable in the absence of staff. A student nurse gets a little less salary than nurses employed on a permanent basis, though. I could write a lot about the differences in education, which would probably benefit the Polish system.

So how is it possible that despite the very visible nursing shortage in Finland, the health system is so good? It is all thanks to the central healthcare plan. Nurses specialize more narrowly (the ward nurse comes in the morning with the task of distributing drugs throughout the day and another nurse conducts tests in a laboratory). Everyone has their own little task. The staff to patient ratio is higher than that in Poland, despite the government’s claims that it is insufficient. There is no possibility for a department such as neurology to have three nurses of whom one works for eight hours. This is dangerous, even life-threatening for patients. Finns are very honest and law-abiding; there is no scheming or lying. As I said, the health system works. Almost the entire country no longer uses paper for documentation. Everything is done on computer. All the information goes to a central system to which each nurse has chip-card access to. The entire medical history of patients from across the country is stored. The central database also contains all the test results, the whole history of medicine, history of nursing, absolutely everything about the patient. I never thought that bureaucracy could be so simple and quick. There is also another huge plus of such a system: the patient’s data follows him wherever he goes so doctors and nurses are able to continue his treatment in a different hospital.

In short, there are few foreigners in Finland. The language is very difficult to learn and there is a completely different mentality and culture, low temperatures and lack of sunlight in winter. However, if you have a Polish nursing degree, it really counts. I don’t know if I would advise another Polish nurse to go to Finland. I think I would rather suggest Sweden or Norway (much better pay, languages more
"human" ;) and a similar healthcare system). Finland falls into this category:
"a very big challenge, and you will have to wait a huge amount of time for positive results".



Kamila Kupisz


A nurse and graduate of the Medical University of Lublin, Poland, currently living and working in Finland