Finland is facing a nursing crisis, according to the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses, as less people are choosing the profession due to the industry's working conditions and relatively lower rate of pay.
The union's spokesperson Johanna Pérez told Yle that the current situation regarding nursing numbers is unprecedented in her experience.
"It's really worrying that there's starting to be such a shortage of nurses, which has been unheard of during my career," said Perez.
Pérez cites the demands of the job as the main reason younger people in Finland are increasingly eschewing the social and healthcare sector and choosing to work in other industries.
"The job is a mix of being a bodyguard, a cleaner, a kitchen worker and a laundry worker. And this may come as quite a surprise, especially to younger nurses," explains Pérez.
Government's planned changes might aggravate problem
Pérez believes the nursing shortage might be further exacerbated by Prime Minister Antti Rinne's government's plans to roll out changes which would see the nursing ratio in the elderly care sector raised to 0.7. This means there would be seven nurses for every ten elderly people, and would therefore require more than 4,000 nurses.
Krista Kiuru, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, told Yle that the government is working on solutions to the shortage, and that one possible solution is to entice former nurses, who have left the profession to pursue careers elsewhere, back to the healthcare industry.
"We can make a commitment that these professional working conditions change in a way that attracts former staff. Furthermore, we can also offer full-time working positions. These areas have the most significant potential for getting these things right," Kiuru said.
Student nurses failing to finish their studies
However, the industry faces significant challenges in recruiting the next generation of nurses to first apply for the relevant courses, and then to complete their studies. Marko Kaira, a board member of the Finnish Student Association Tehy, explained that a pattern is emerging whereby student nurses drop out before graduating.
"It is worrying to hear from all over Finland that students decide even during their studies, on the basis of practical training experience or even on the basis of teaching experience, that this is not their field, and they do not finish their studies," Kaira told Yle.