Overcrowded market compels medics to look abroad for work

December 6, 2002

More with less - THES reporters describe efforts around the world to meet the rising demand for trained medical staff without compromising quality

A system that produces more nurses and doctors than it can absorb means many Spaniards go abroad to work. Up to 11 per cent of nurses are unemployed in Spain, while 18.8 per cent work only part of the year, according to the National Nursing Council.

Emma Fern ndez qualified as a nurse at Barcelona University in 2001 and is combining temporary nursing work with a masters in HIV/Aids. "Work conditions here in Spain are subhuman," she said. "How are you supposed to survive on one week's work at Easter, two at Christmas and a couple of months in the summer?"

Jesus Lago, spokesperson for unemployed doctors at Madrid's Doctors'

Association, estimated that 7 per cent of doctors are unemployed, rising to 10 per cent in Madrid.

The lack of job opportunities at home forces many medical personnel to look abroad for work, although higher salaries or the chance of professional development are also a lure.

"In 2001-02, more than 30 per cent of our nursing graduates - about 40 students - left to work abroad," said Manuel Pe$a, director of Granada University's School of Nursing.

Since Spanish doctors and nurses are well regarded in the rest of Europe, other countries with shortages are eager to snap them up. France, Italy and Portugal are favoured destinations. Britain is another. The British government organises recruitment drives through the doctors' professional associations in Spain and has signed an agreement with the Spanish authorities to expedite nurse mobility.

Recognition of professional qualifications is not a problem. A European Community directive of 1977 facilitates mutual recognition across the EU for doctors and nurses.

It takes three years to qualify as a nurse in Spain. Since 1977, universities have provided this training instead of professional schools. Juan Beneit, director of Madrid's Complutense University's School of Nursing, believed university involvement was one reason why nursing remained a popular option when, elsewhere in Europe, enrolments were steadily dropping.

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