The Corona-virus and a shortage of doctors and nurses in Swedish hospitals

April 30, 2020

If there is one thing the Corona virus outbreak has made clear, it is that there is a lack of educated healthcare professionals in Sweden. It has been a fact since early days of the outbreak that the facilities and material exist all over the country, but that there is a lack of able bodies with the expertise to use them. But is this only a problem Sweden has faced during the Corona outbreak?

The fact that there is a shortage of healthcare professionals is not news to anyone working within the medical field. Just prior to the outbreak a large-scale nationwide protest began called “Sjukvårdsuppropet”, The Medical Care Appeal, and it aims to point out the shortage in particular. It also supports the notion that the possibilities to offer very good healthcare exist in Sweden when looking at the facilities and the equipment, but that there is often a lack of personnel to follow through and make good healthcare a certainty. When we are talking about a lack of expertise we are primarily talking about the occupations that require a license to practise, and it is not only one or two of those twenty occupations, but almost all of them.

This underlying theme of this article is the lack of expertise within the medical field, but it will primarily aim to introduce you to the major players that are relevant to someone who is looking to work as a medical professional in Sweden. Here in this article we are going to outline the two major governmental offices in Sweden which are relevant for foreign medical professionals who intend to relocate to Sweden in order to obtain their license to practise in Sweden. At the end of this article you will find a few links to the subjects touched upon as well as a list of all the occupations that require a license to practise in Sweden.

The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen)

First off is the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden, which has a part in pretty much everything healthcare related. Among other things the board has the overarching responsibility for issuing a license to practise, for medical students in Sweden, from within the European Union and from the rest of the world. If you are not a medical professional yourself, a license to practise can be explained as a mandatory certificate that allows you to practise your occupation. It is not enough to just have the educational background to use a protected title, but you also need a license to support it. Another common license required in Sweden is issued to teachers and it gives them the license to teach different ages and to teach different subjects, depending on their educational background.

The National Board of Health and Welfare makes a list each year where they present a plan, on a national level, concerning the availability of medical professionals throughout Sweden both short and long term. This plan is the basis for political decisions on a national level, as well as for universities to be able to estimate e.g. how many new doctors that will be allowed to start their education in the upcoming year.

In conclusion the National Board of Health and Welfare is a key player for anything healthcare related. They have also been in charge of distributing medical equipment and setting up field hospitals together with the Swedish Armed Forces during the current epidemic.

The Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket)

The second major player, and the most prominent one for most foreigners, is the Swedish Migration Agency. They are responsible for everything related to residence permits in Sweden. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying, looking to work or just visit Sweden. In most cases, you will be in contact with them one way or another.

The Swedish Migration Agency is also responsible for an official shortage list that plays an important role during work permit applications. It’s created in consultation with the Swedish Public Employment Service, workers’ unions and employers’ associations, and reflects the current situation on the job market. The current shortage list for 2020 was created in November last year and holds a place for a large majority of the licensed occupations within the medical field. The same was true for last year’s shortage list, which also included most of the medical professions.

If you would like to explore the subject further, feel free to check out the links and descriptions below.