A NEW JOINT NURSING DEGREE PROGRAMME at the Helsinki’s region’s Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and the Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) aims to put a stop to Finland’s severe nursing shortage by specifically offering training to foreign-born students who do not speak Finnish.
The 3.5-year Nursing Degree Programme, developed through the TOKASA Project, has received funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Employment and Economy under the so-called Talent Boost programme, which aims to increase the number of foreign-born professionals working in Finland.
The degree has been created in direct response to Finland’s acute nursing shortage. An estimated 30,000 additional nurses are needed in the next decade, something that is simply not possible to procure from the native-born population alone. By 2030, 13,000 nurses currently in the system are set to retire, potentially exacerbating a care shortage at a time where the Finnish population will be ageing faster than ever.
The new degree, which will offer 14 study places in Tampere and 14 places in Helsinki this year, will be taught largely in English for the first semester, gradually increasing the level of Finnish-language studies alongside intensive language teaching. The goal is that all graduates will be proficient enough in Finnish after three-and-a-half years to begin practicing nursing in Finnish at any facility in the country.
“The aim of this course is for it to become the new normal”, explained Sanna Laiho, Senior Lecturer and International Coordinator for the degree at TUAS.
“This is the future we need in order to address our shortage of nurses and we need non-native Finnish speakers to enter the profession. This is a real solution to a real problem”.
Sanna - who completed her own nursing degree in English before going on to work in the UK and returning to teach in Finland in 2010 - also believes that this course can succeed where previous courses have failed. Recent estimates show that around a third of qualified nurses consider leaving Finland soon after graduating to practice in a different country.
“Nursing is a very emotional job, meaning it can be very difficult if you can’t express yourself in your working language. Not knowing enough of the language can also limit the opportunities you are given. This degree is specifically designed to address that problem”.
The degree requires applicants to have B2 level English and will consist of 23 credit units worth of Finnish language classes, with each credit unit comprising 27 hours of study. Course-related work placements in hospitals will also be in Finnish. No prior knowledge of the language is required before applying.
Päivi Rimpioja, the Project mManager for the course at Helsinki’s Metropolia UAS, worked and taught as a nurse in Ethiopia, Austria, and Kosovo and understands well the importance of a holistic, tailored approach to teaching.
“People have different cultural backgrounds, and they all learn differently. We provide individual study plans for each student as well as a mentor and integrated language training”, explained Rimpioja.
“It’s all about making students from anywhere feel more comfortable in a clinical setting here in Finland”.
Rimpioja also added that, following graduation, the degree is designed so that the Finnish employer will “take over” and continue their learning and development. Staff and students are also expected to stay in touch via the degree alumni programme.
When asked what kind of applicants they are looking for, Laiho said that, although people from anywhere outside Finland are encouraged to apply, this pilot year is ideal for “those who have already lived in Finland for a time and have perhaps struggled to find meaningful work without the language skills”.
“This is a job that requires passionate, intelligent students who care about people and want to make a difference”, Laiho added.
In addition, Rimpioja stressed that motivation, good health, and determination are necessary, due to the extremely demanding nature of the job and the taxing language requirements.
“Learning a language like Finnish is certainly not easy, but we are able to do it when we absolutely have to”.
When asked why they thought anyone considering a career in nursing should choose to live and work in Finland, both women were quick to point out the “highly equal” working culture, in which nurses are not treated as inferior to doctors and where gender hierarchy is also much less prevalent than it can be in other countries.
Rimpioja also wanted to emphasize that a nursing career in Finland opens up a lot of options, where you can work in a multidisciplinary team, go into the medical business as an entrepreneur, or continue your studies at a Master’s or PhD level. However, for her, these are not the most compelling reasons.
“Nursing is a beautiful profession. You are always with people and there is virtually no limit to what you can do. You really can choose your own destiny as a nurse in Finland”.
Adam Oliver Smith - HT
The next application period for the degree programme begins on September 1, 2021. Applicants can choose to apply at either Metropolia UAS or Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Tuition is free for all EU/EEA citizens, or €11,000 per academic year for non-EU/EEA citizens at Metropolia UAS or €9800 per academic year at Tampere UAS. All applicants liable to pay tuition fees can apply for grants to cover all or part of their studies. Successful graduates receive an EU-wide nursing qualification and the right to apply to practice their profession in Finland via the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health.