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Finnish nurses heading abroad for better pay

Nurses who have received their degrees from Finland are increasingly leaving the country - usually temporarily - to work abroad, according to a fresh study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Hoitaja kyykyssä pyörätuolin vieressä.
Image: Yle

The THL found that Finnish-trained nurses are increasingly leaving the country to find work in other countries. While most of those nurses return to Finland after a few years, the higher salaries that countries like Norway and tax-free Saudi Arabia offer appear to be drawing Finnish nurses abroad.

In the 1990s there was a similar trend for about a decade - in the year 2000 the number peaked with about 4,000 Finnish nurses working abroad.

The unemployment rate of trained nurses in Finland is in the low single digits, so the reason for the flight of nurses from the country isn’t likely the lack of jobs here.

Sonja Lindén, a Finnish-trained nurse, worked in Oslo for a few years until she returned in 2013.

“Of course it’s the salaries that attract, especially if you can find cheap housing and you can stash some money away,” Lindén said.

The most popular destination for Finnish nurses is in the Nordic countries. Last year, for example, there were some 1,200 Finnish-trained nurses working in Sweden. In Norway during the same period there were about 600, according to THL.

Better salaries drawing nurses farther afield

The tax free situation in Saudi Arabia draws medical professionals, too.

Miriam Shango, a Finnish-trained nurse who has worked at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh for the past six months, says that the Saudi Arabian tax free salaries of between 3 to 4,000 euros a month are a big attraction.

Shango says the transition to life as a woman in the patriarchal country was a bit of a shock, but plans to stay in the country for the next two years at least.

"I thought I would take the opportunity to do it while I'm young," Shango says.

Other popular countries with Finnish nurses looking for work include Switzerland, the UK, the US and Germany.

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