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Expert: Finland needs 30k more healthcare workers by 2030

One third of Finnish municipalities report ongoing recruitment problems as an expert warns an acute shortage is looming.

Lähihoitaja Bern Amar työssään auttamassa vanhusta, Attendo, Vantaa, 12.11.2018.
A government commitment to increasing the nursing quota at elderly care facilities has accelerated the need for more healthcare staff. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Finland is expected to need recruiting around 30,000 more nurses by the year 2030 to meet the demands of an aging population and the obligations set out in the government’s proposal to amend the law on social and healthcare services for the elderly.

The bill proposes setting the minimum nursing quota for round-the-clock care at old-age institutions at seven caregivers for each 10 residents.

This has led to great concern about the shortage of nurses in Finland, according to Teppo Kröger, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Jyväskylä and Director of the Centre of Excellence in Aging and Care.

"Even in this decade, the need for recruitment is great. In the 2030s, the need for both services and staff will grow even faster, as large age group populations will then become clients of care services," Kröger said.

Currently there are about 50,000 healthcare staff working in round-the-clock care of the elderly.

Municipalities report constant recruitment problems

Recruitment problems are also reflected in a survey published on Wednesday by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) for municipalities and associations of municipalities.

The survey found that more than half of municipalities had occasional problems recruiting both nurses and healthcare workers, while one-third of the municipalities said they had persistent recruitment problems, especially for meeting the needs of elderly care.

This means that nursing homes and home care units are often left understaffed, THL specialist Sari Kehusmaa told Yle.

"When qualified workers are not available, the options are limited. Untrained staff and students must be used for both home and round-the-clock care. The use of both also engages permanent staff because their work needs to be supervised," Kehusmaa said.

Less interest in caring careers

Although recruitment problems in the sector are not new, they are becoming more acute as there is less interest among young people in becoming healthcare workers, according to Annika Asla, a community nurse and shop steward with the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (SuPer) in Helsinki.

"Caring for the elderly is not an attractive career option these days. Helping clients in poor conditions makes the job very physically strenuous," she explained.

Jyväskylä University's Professor Kröger noted that the current recruitment difficulties reflect how employees have lost a significant part of their previous professional autonomy, as well as an increasing amount of conflict in relationships with supervisors.

"The appreciation and remuneration of care work does not meet the expectations of the staff," Kröger said.

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