In Focus: Healthcare Professionals from Slovakia

19. Februar 2015

International Recruiting

Pan­orama of Bra­tis­lava. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Pan­orama of Bra­tis­lava. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

There is an increasing number of medical staff from Middle and Eastern Europe coming to Germany with the goal to find a better life and job. But what are the incentives that bring the healthcare professionals from Middle and East Europe to Germany? And are there some challenges and hindrances which need to be considered when recruiting medical staff from these countries? To answer these questions, I decided to take a close look at one small country in the very heart of Europe, which is my home-country – Slovakia.

According to the statistics approximately 849 Slovak physicians are currently working in Germany. In the whole, the doctors from this small country belong to the 10th most common nationality among the foreign physicians working in Germany.1 This is not surprising, as for the Slovak physicians Germany is the second most popular destination when searching for a work abroad, only in Czech Republic you can find more Slovak doctors (probably due to the language similarity).

Unemployment

One factor, which plays an important role, are the high unemployment rates. With 12,6% of unemployed within the population is Slovakia ranked above the EU-average, whereas in Germany only 5% of the population is unemployed (Status from November 2014).2 Even though since the beginning of 2014 the number of unemployed is gradually declining in Slovakia, it is still difficult for the young graduates and older unemployed inhabitants for find a job.

Financial Reasons

Further incentives are the higher income opportunities in Germany. Especially young medicine graduates are attracted by higher salaries. Due to the recent enactment of the physicians’ minimum wage in Slovakia, the salaries increased considerably in the last two years. However, the overall income is still very low compared with the one in Germany. There is a large difference especially between the salaries of residents without a specialization and medical specialists. In Germany the average salary of a resident amounts to 4.016 EUR, whereas it can range between 2.886 and 5.677 EUR. In Slovakia the minimum salary of a resident is 980 EUR, what is only one third of the salary earned in Germany. Therefore, the German healthcare labour market is particularly appealing for the graduates with little practical experience.

The average income of a medical specialist in Germany is 5.104 EUR, whilst the actual income can vary between 3.381 and 9.729 EUR. In Slovakia a medical specialist earns on average 2.150 EUR. However, the income can in some cases amount even up to 6.000 EUR through payment bonuses.
In the area of nursing the income differences are even more apparent. The nursing staff in Germany earns on an average 2.308 EUR, whilst the nurses in Slovakia have an average income of 1.022 EUR.

Working Conditions

Not only the income draws the Slovakian physicians and nursing staff to Germany, also better life and work quality are determining factors. Many German clinics and hospitals are with their material and financial resources, technical equipment and professional expertise superior to those in Slovakia. Moreover, the clinics and hospital in Germany offer their employees better career and training opportunities.

Ulica_M.S.Trnavskeho_-_Trnava

The city Trnava. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Education System

The education of healthcare staff in Slovakia is compared to Germany highly academic. The education can takes place at two levels – at the secondary level in a healthcare vocational school and at the tertiary level in a college or a university.

At the colleges and universities in Slovakia not only physicians receive their training and education, but also nurses and carers, midwifes, pharmacists, physiotherapists and nutrition consultants. For many of these professions a qualification can be obtained only by completing an undergraduate or a postgraduate program in a college or a university. As a result vocational training in Slovakia consists of much larger theoretical part compared with the one in Germany. A disadvantage of this education system is lack of specialization. Through the nursing undergraduate or postgraduate program a general qualification as a nurse is obtained. In order to acquire a specialization, e.g. as a geriatric or a paediatric nurse, an additional qualification is necessary.

In order to obtain a qualification as a physician a diploma from a six-year postgraduate program of medicine is necessary, the same rule applies when studying dentistry. At the end of the studies state examinations and disputations take place. Due to the adjustments towards Bologna process the medical studies in Slovakia are in the content and structurally similar to those in Germany and are acknowledged in all EU-countries. After the completing the studies most of the graduates strive for a postgraduate training as a medical specialist. Similarly as in Germany, the postgraduate training so-called residency takes place in an authorized healthcare institution and consists of a practical and a theoretical part. The residency lasts usually from three up to five years depending on the area of specialization.

Healthcare vocational schools are institutions of the secondary level, which also provide healthcare education. The students acquire here a double qualification, on one side a general education and on other side a vocational training strongly grounded in the practical experience. The education in a healthcare vocational school lasts usually four years. Mainly the qualification for auxiliary professions are acquired here, e.g. healthcare assistants, nutritionists, dental assistants, but also professions which do not require a large theoretical knowledge, e.g. pharmaceutical lab assistants, orthopaedic technicians, masseurs or sanitarians. After graduating from the healthcare vocational school an additional qualification is possible.

Language Competence

German has been established as a foreign language for many years in Slovakia. According to the Eurobarometer survey 28% of the population is able to speak German on a fluent level.3 Especially, the young generation is able speak good German, in particular students, people with higher education and citizens of larger cities. German is usually taught as the first or second foreign language in the primary school and in the secondary grammar school, while the student in the secondary grammar school can choose, which foreign languages they want to learn. It is also possible to graduate in German as a foreign language, which is equivalent to the language level B1. Moreover, there are also bilingual secondary grammar schools in Slovakia, at which the classes are taught entirely or partially in German and when graduating the school-leaving examination is completed in German language. Similarly, in some colleges and universities the lectures and seminars are taught completely in German. Even though, the medicine and healthcare programs currently do not provide this possibility, the students can still choose courses of different German levels or medical German as an elective subject or even write the degree thesis in German language.

Conclusion

The Slovak healthcare staff is due to their good professional qualification and language skills attractive for the German labour market. Since the economic and working conditions in Germany are better than in the Slovakia, the healthcare professionals are particularly enticed to move to Germany and stay there even over the long term. A similar situation prevails also in many other Middle and East European countries. In this way the healthcare professionals from these countries offer the possibility to fill in the personnel gaps and improve the current situation in healthcare in Germany.

Sources

  1. http://de.statista.com/infografik/1764/auslaendische-aerzte-in-deutschland/
  2. http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/160142/umfrage/arbeitslosenquote-in-den-eu-laendern/
  3. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_243_sum_de.pdf
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