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Professor: Dramatic drop in nursing school applications a patient safety issue

Last spring, only 4,038 primary candidates applied for various vocational nursing degrees, as opposed to 8,925 in 2015.

Last spring, only 4,038 primary candidates applied for various basic nursing degrees in educational institutions, as opposed to 8,925 in 2015. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The number of applicants for vocational upper secondary nursing courses in Finland has fallen by more than fifty percent, according to statistics provided to Yle by the Finnish National Board of Education.

Only 4,038 primary candidates applied for various vocational nursing degrees last spring, as opposed to 8,925 in 2015.

The number of applicants to other types of nursing courses has also decreased, with losses ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 from last year.

According to Mari Kangasniemi, a professor at Turku University's Department of Nursing Science, the decline has major societal implications.

"This situation raises the fundamental issue of patient safety and the right of clients to good care. How can these be ensured if there is not enough staff?" Kangasniemi questioned.

In educational institutions, admission criteria and standards for healthcare professionals cannot be lowered. Therefore, the number of care workers will naturally decrease if not enough training positions can be filled.

90 percent of nurses have considered a career change

Nearly 90 percent of nurses in Finland have considered changing their profession, according to a survey conducted by the nurses' union Tehy last autumn. Among nurses under 30, almost all had considered a career change.

Kangasniemi said the care industry's poor image is due to a number of factors.

Some of these, in Kangasniemi's opinion, include a lack of clarity about the reform of the social welfare system and the news being frequently filled with stories about problems accessing services.

Workers' frustration, on the other hand, was embodied in the nurses' strikes, seen in the spring. Additionally, there is still no solution to the care sector's wage dispute.

All of these factors have also contributed to stress and ethical strain among workers, Kangasniemi said, adding that the work cannot be done as well as desired.

According to Kangasniemi, the entire work culture in the care sector needs to undergo an overhaul, so that new generations can view it as a career choice that meets their needs.

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