Working as a Nurse in Finland - What to Expect?
Covered in the Article
- Finland - a Country Where Every Nurse Is Hired
- Nurses: Finland's Most Needed Workforce
- Nursing Positions
- How to Become a Nurse in Finland?
- Challenges in the Nursing Field
- Overcoming Challenges
- Where to Start?
- Bottom Line
Finland - a Country Where Every Nurse Is Hired
Many Filipinos and other foreigners are seeking employment to work as a nurse in Finland. This country got global attention after having been voted the world's happiest country consistently for five years in a row. However, for a foreigner whose origin is outside Europe, not much is known for them about Finland. Honestly, this is my case when I immigrated to Finland almost a decade ago. The only knowledge I knew then about Finland is that it is known for inventing Nokia.
Finland has a total population of 5,600,000 and the ageing population is increasing tremendously yearly while authorities are concerned about the low birth rates. For example, the statistics published on December 31, 2022, show that 20.2% of Finland's total population is aged 65–84 while 2.8% of the total population is aged 85 years old and above. Regarding mortality, deaths rose during the first half of 2022, which is 3,166 more fatalities than during the same period the previous year. Thanks to increasing immigration in Finland that gives hope for the country to see an increase in birth rate and the same time increase in the population in the workforce, especially in the healthcare sector which remains a big challenge for the lack of nurses.
Finland is one of the Nordic countries located in Northern Europe. Helsinki is Finland's capital located in the southern part of the country. Helsinki with a latitude of 60.17 is the world's second northernmost country capital just a bit lower than Reykjavik, Iceland whose latitude is 64.13.
Finland's official languages are Finnish and Swedish. The Finnish language is natively spoken by 91.7% of the total population while Swedish-speaking Finns are 5.2%. Foreign languages are spoken by 8.3% of Finland's population dominated by Russian speakers (1.6%), Estonian (0.9%) and Arabic (0.7%) while English speakers are just 0.5%. The other foreign languages most widely spoken are Somali, Farsi, Persian, Kurdish, Chinese, Albanian, and Vietnamese. Most employers require their employees to be able to communicate in Finnish or Swedish including those in the healthcare sector and office jobs requiring constant communication with customers. IT-related jobs, cleaners and delivery jobs are just some exceptions where an employee can work without having Finnish/Swedish language skills.
Nurses: Finland's Most Needed Workforce
According to Finland's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Ministry, the country needs 200,000 new health and social care workers by the year 2030. And at least 10% of this figure is to be recruited from abroad. Finland like many other western countries has had a perennial problem with the shortage of nursing staff for many years already. The problem is getting even worse reflected widely during the pandemic and still, such a crisis is a continuous challenge.
Hiring foreign nurses have been proposed as part of the solution to the nursing shortage in Finland. Many cities and municipalities have embarked on recruitment drives to bring nurses from abroad to fill the employment gap in their respective healthcare institutions. This has led to the establishment of many new recruitment agencies aiming to bring more nurses from abroad with the top choice for nurses from the Philippines. There are some recruitment for nurses also from other developing nations like India, Nepal and Kenya.
Nurse Assistant (Hoiva-avustaja)
In most cases, nurses recruited from abroad starts working as assistant nurse when they arrive in Finland. As an assistant nurse, your scope of responsibility is limited. For example, you are not allowed to administer medicines. From the word 'assistant' itself, you can't function at the workplace independently. Instead, you must be supervised by a qualified health care practitioner, let's say a practical nurse or registered nurse. The major reason for this from an immigrant's perspective is the language barrier. Even having gone basic language training in Finnish or Swedish doesn't automatically mean you can handle fully client-nurse interaction situations as the written Finnish language is quite different from the spoken language. It needs time to learn the language, therefore it's a reason you'll have a named instructor throughout.
The work settings for nurse assistants are often placed in work for the elderly. The tasks of the nurse assistant are related to taking care of the important basic needs of patients. These include, for example, helping the patient with washing, eating, dressing, moving, and cleaning. Nurse assistants also participate in maintaining the clients' ability to function and providing stimulation, for example, by having outdoor recreational and socialization activities.
Through the help of nurse assistants, patient holistic care is provided so that registered nurses can focus on their nursing tasks. Again, nurse assistants can not work on tasks related to medical treatment.
To be qualified as a nurse assistant in Finland, you should have completed training in any of the following: training specifically meant for the education of a care assistant, home care worker or practical nurse. Nursing students who have work or internship experience in caring for the elderly can also work as nursing assistants.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) (Lähihoitaja)
As mentioned earlier, practical nurses (lähihoitaja) need a license from Valvira (National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health) to be able to practice as one because a practical nurse is a title-protected health and social care profession. This title protection means that only those who have completed the required training can use the professional title of lähihoitaja. Studying to become a practical nurse in Finland usually takes about 2–3 years. However, by considering some factors you can graduate faster, i.e. your previous work experience and previous studies will be reviewed together with the teacher in charge, and you will be drawn up with a personal competence development plan for the duration of your studies. For Filipino nurses already holding a degree in nursing from the Philippines, you would be able to complete the training for a shortened period like 1.5 years same time while working. Studies are usually conducted online while practicums happen at the workplace under the guidance of a personal mentor (ohjaaja in Finnish), who is usually one of your colleagues. The scope of studies to become a practical nurse in Finland is 180 credits. The average salary for practical nurses in Finland is 2,206€ - 2,807€.
Shortages for practical nurses are usually in nursing care homes (hoivakoti ), home care (kotihoito), daycare centres (päiväkoti) and different hospital wards.
Registered Nurse (RN) (Sairaanhoitaja)
Same as the case for practical nurses, also registered nurses need a license from Valvira to be able to practice as it is a title-protected health and social care profession. So you can't convert directly your foreign nursing license into a Finnish nursing license. The scope of studies to become a registered nurse in Finland is 210 credits and the planned duration is 3.5 years. Thanks to the existence of program implementations by the different schools of applied sciences in Finland to help address the nursing shortage. These applied sciences schools offer training intended for students with an immigrant background living in Finland who have completed a nursing degree outside of Europe or in another EU country with a shorter duration of about two years. The average salary for registered nurses in Finland is 2,546€ - 3,207€.
In Finland, registered nurses can work in different work settings like hospital settings, health care stations, polyclinics, nursing care homes, home care and other different health care facilities.
Nurses in Finland are paid supplements on top of the basic salary. In addition to the salary received for regular working hours, extra pays such as personal allowances (i.e years of working experience) and allowances for inconvenient working hours, such as evening, night and weekend allowances. The average starting salary for nurse assistants in Finland is 1912,62€. The median basic salary for a registered nurse is 2,546 euros, for a practical nurse it is 2,206 euros and for a child's nurse is 2,168 euros. The salary in the private and public sectors varies.
In Finland, for work done on Sundays, weekdays, Saturdays, evenings and nights, a separate compensation is paid, i.e. extra on top of the basic salary. If a nurse does shifts on Sundays and public holidays, a 100% increased salary is paid. Compensation paid for work done on Saturdays, evenings and nights varies between different collective agreements. Also, the period entitling to evening, Saturday, and night work compensation varies. Here are some examples:
The compensation paid for evening work is usually 15% of the hourly wage and is paid for the period between 18:00 and 22:00. Night shift often means work done between 22:00 and 07:00 and the compensation paid for it is 30–45% of the hourly wage. The compensation paid for a normal Saturday shift is usually 20% of the hourly wage and is paid for the period between 06:00 and 18:00.
The gross monthly salary, therefore, differs every month depending on how many weekends, evenings or night shifts you have done in a certain period. Depending on the employer, basic salaries are usually paid either on the 15th day or end of the month while compensations can be paid separately or together with your basic salary but payment slips are sent to you via online banking at the latest of the payment date. The payment slip must show the amount of wage due and how it was calculated. For example, it must read how many working hours are done during the payment period and the employee's hourly rate. The number of increments such as evening or night work increments and the number of working hours entitled for compensation must be also reflected in the payment slip.
Again, it is, therefore, vital and imperative to check the details of your payment slips every payday to ensure that you are being paid exactly for the work done. For any inconsistencies, you must first contact your supervisor/manager and the accountant/clerk (palkkanlaskija in Finnish).
How to Become a Nurse in Finland?
At the moment a foreign nurse who obtained a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing from outside the EU is not directly qualified to practice as a professional nurse in Finland. This is the consequence of a gap in the nursing syllabus of foreign nursing schools outside the EU and the Finnish curriculum. A nurse will qualify in Finland as a practical nurse or registered nurse after the applicant obtains professional practice rights from Valvira in Finland. Employers can easily check online if an employee has obtained the qualification from the registers of social welfare and healthcare professional's website. This link to the registry is open to the public as well.
Another big factor for a foreign nurse not being able to practice directly the professional rights as a nurse in Finland is the language barrier. As earlier mentioned, Finnish and Swedish are the official languages used in Finland. This means nurses should be able to speak either of these two languages to be able to carry out the tasks of a nurse. It is important to note that communication is the central core of the nursing practice, not forgetting the essence of patient safety.
Residence Permit, Qualifications and Job
To become a nurse in Finland, you need to have a residence permit, and job and fulfil the qualifications. Quite often, more training is needed. Because the process is complicated, using a professional agency is the easiest way to immigrate to Finland as a nurse.
Finnish Immigration Service after a long time of being criticized for slow service in processing visas has installed a new director general in the Autumn of 2022. The new director general of the Finnish Immigration Service committed to speeding up the permit processes for foreigners applying to Finland with the help of automation. He also hopes for a greater sense of community from the integration services that promote language skills, education and employment. The agency intends to reform its operating methods, overall consideration in processing and decision-making, consultation with clients, and the practices of concealing decisions.
Have thorough research about the trustworthiness of the recruitment agency you are applying with. The best way to find out about such an agency is by asking directly from some of their previous applicants regarding their experience.
Challenges in the Nursing Field
Learning the Finnish Language
For an immigrant moving to Finland and wanting to work as a nurse, one of the biggest challenges is learning the Finnish language considered one of the world's most difficult languages to learn. Good communication between nurses and patients is very important for the delivery of safe care and successful outcome of individualized nursing care for each patient. Also, communication involves persons who surround the client/patient, the patient's family members or significant others and other members of the health care team which is why the language of communication should be understood by all those involved in it. Therefore, to be able to achieve a successful nursing career in Finland, one must commit to learning and being able to communicate adequately in either Finnish or Swedish in a healthcare setting.
Burnout is a common problem for nurses not forgetting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has even elevated the risks among healthcare workers worldwide. Burnout is never the sum of just one factor. Although too much workload or too stressful work tasks are often mentioned as the main reasons, another strong causative factor can also be perceived as bad/unfair treatment by the employee in the workplace.
For a new employee in any organization it would be a great start if you feel welcomed and valued. However, it is inevitable to encounter workplaces which have bad management. For example, one study conducted by a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health says that perceived bullying and unfair or inappropriate treatment in the workplace predicts depression. Sometimes the fact that the same rules do not apply to all employees or inconsistency in the treatment of employees can also indicate abuse of power in the workplace. For example, one employee does not have to submit a sick leave certificate in a certain situation, but another must submit a certificate, even if his situation is completely similar, which indicates unjust treatment between employees which is entirely wrong.
Another concrete example of the abuse of power in the workplace, is in the division of work tasks, there is constantly a situation where others get praised, and one person is always left with a task that is not valued or that no one else would have wanted. It is also an alarming sign if in workplace meetings, one employee never gets to speak or this employee's ideas are constantly seen as bad or ignored while another colleague later gets credit for the same idea. This kind of situation when repeated causes one employee to be labelled as less important than others because it has been shown in a way that he does not have the same value in the workplace as others. Another sign of bad management is that your superior does not hear what the employees are saying. Every employee has a different situation in life. For example, one could be a morning person that prefers to do the morning shift and the other could be willing to do only evening or night shifts but still, the employer doesn't consider anything when planning the work shift schedules which consequently affects the employee's wellbeing negatively.
Luckily, its been taught to nursing students that problems can be solved with a nursing care plan. The same is true in your immigration life. The challenge of the language can be overcome with thorough dedication and commitment to learning it. Practice makes perfect and so speaking the language as much as you can is the best way to develop your Finnish language skills. As a newbie at your workplace, your Finnish colleagues would strongly appreciate it if you try hard to express yourself in Finnish. They'll understand well if you commit mistakes. Remember that by speaking the language, you develop your language skills while the people around you will appreciate it more as it's one way to effectively get integrated into the Finnish community. Later with consistent practice of the language, you'll see yourself improving.
With regards to preventing and managing burnout problems. Fortunately, employers and nursing staff can implement practices together to help prevent burnout. This requires the utilisation of strategies and measures to prevent burnout among nurses. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed due to work-related matters, you have the right to talk to your supervisor and as needed you can contact your employer's occupational health care (terveydenhuolto). As an employee, these health care services are free but you need to verify from your written work contract the broad of health care services covered by your employer.
Also one essential thing to know is, in the Finnish workplace, there's always a chosen person to be workplace steward/shop steward also called luottamusmies in Finnish whose powers are based on a collective agreement between an employer's association. In short, the function of a workplace steward is to represent the employees.
Don't you like your employer and solving problems is challenging? If your contract allows, it is recommended to apply for a position in another organization.
Finding a Good Employer
In my almost decade of working in Finland, I have encountered different employers and yes, I can say I have had different experiences with each of them. A good employer is someone who is a good listener and does his or her job and someone who is not good at forgetting his/her promises. For example, an employer who fails to pay your salary on time is a bad sign of being not concerned about an employee's basic rights. Employers in Finland are obliged by law to pay salaries on due time as agreed on your working contract. Luckily, it is really rare that salaries are paid late. Another alarming sign of a bad employer is someone who fails to compensate you for a task done as you have originally mutually agreed. For example, not paying you extra bonuses for previously asking you for extending your shifts and making promises for certain compensation. It is very important to check your pay slips every time that you are being paid the right salary you're entitled to. Take into account the number of working hours done, and update possible changes to your working hours in the official work shift plan at your workplace. A good employer won't have any issues paying an employee's correct salary and on time.
In Finland, every employee has four major rights: To join a union (Tehy and Super are the two unions mainly for health care staff); To receive remuneration by the collective agreement and other minimum provisions (An employee has the right to be paid the agreed wage on the agreed date and time.); Right for protection provided by acts and contracts; Lastly, the right to a healthy and safe working environment.
Free Employee Rights Advice for Immigrants in Finland
As an immigrant employee in Finland, it's good to know that you have the access to the employee rights advisory service from which you can raise your concerns or problems related to work such as employment contracts, wages or working hours which will be answered by a lawyer. This service is being provided for free by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade unions, SAK. You can use the service even if you are not an official trade union member. The service is provided in Finnish or English by contacting them by phone or email.
Where to Start?
Now you have a picture of what is like to work as a nurse in Finland. If you are interested and have decided to start your nursing career in Finland, you can start by finding a reliable agency. We advise comparing agencies carefully to find a trustable one. Before paying any money, ask for the experiences of nurses who have availed of the services of your chosen agency. Spending a lot of money on the immigration process is an investment whose risk you want to minimize.
Do you have questions about Finland or are you worried about something that does not feel right? Contact us and let us see if we can help.
- How to be a nurse in Finland from the Philippines?
- The easiest way is to contact a reliable agency that provides the essential training and handles the immigration process.
- What is a nursing assistant in Finland?
- A foreign nurse in Finland starts often as a nursing assistant because one does not have the professional rights to work as a registered nurse. By completing the required training prescribed by VALVIRA, a nursing assistant can become a practical nurse or a registered nurse.
- What is a practical nurse?
- Practical nurses support patients by providing basic nursing and medical care. They have fewer responsibilities than registered nurses.
- What is a registered nurse?
- Registered nurses primarily administer medication and treatments, and they offer educational advice to patients. They have more responsibilities than practical nurses, thus higher salaries.
- How much does a nurse earn in Finland?
- A practical nurse can earn about 2,206€ - 2,807€ per month and a registered nurse can earn about 2,546€ - 3,207€. About 25% will be deducted from the gross salary which goes for payment of taxes and income-related earnings deductions.
- What are the living costs in Finland?
- The living costs depend on your lifestyle but at least, you need at least 1,000 euros per month.
- How long are the paid vacations of nurses in Finland?
- Nurses in Finland have usually 4 to 6 weeks of paid annual leave depending on the length of experience and whether they are working for a private or public employer.
- Where is the best place to be a nurse in Finland?
- It depends on your preferences. If you are a city-oriented person, then Helsinki is the only right place. If you like more countryside, there are many open positions in Lapland and the whole of Finland.
- Are there many foreign nurses in Finland?
- Yes, there are. You will easily encounter other immigrants working as nurses almost anywhere in Finland.
Nursing in general is a highly respected profession. Filipino nurses are highly valued for their strong work ethics around the world. While Finland is lacking nurses due to the ageing population, Finnish nursing staff changing careers and retirements of health care staff, immigrants are seen as a part of the solution to help ease the nursing labour shortage in the country. Finland is known worldwide for quality health care, clean air and being the happiest country in the world. For aspiring applicants ready to start their dream career in the healthcare field in a safe country like Finland, the safest way to start is by availing the help of a trusted human resource company which has the needed expertise to help you along the way.
Are you a nurse in Finland? What is your advice for a new nurse? You may also want to join our Finland-related Facebook group: Travelling and Living in Finland and start a discussion there.