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Basque nurses find new Nordic jobs

A shortage of healthcare staff prompted Finland’s Satakunta Region to start recruiting nurses in Spain’s Basque Country. While separated by over 2 600 km, the two regions now have a unique collaboration – with help from EURES and intensive language lessons.
“Our collaboration began when Satakunta representatives contacted the professional association of nurses in Vizcaya,” says Dolores Goitiandia, EURES Adviser in Spain, from the city of Lanbide. “They chose this region at the suggestion of a Basque nurse who has worked in western Finland for many years.”
In early 2012, several Finnish companies visited the Basque Country to see its healthcare system and nursing education. EURES-Lanbide established the contacts with healthcare providers and the University of the Basque Country.
Recruitment started in February, when EURES-Lanbide advertised the Finnish nursing jobs. Around 90 CVs from Basque nurses were received and sent on to the Finnish recruitment agency created for this inter-regional pilot scheme.
Ready for Finland?
First interviews took place at EURES-Lanbide’s offices, to assess candidates’ availability and suitability for the project. “We then did individual interviews, including a presentation on Finland. One goal was to check people’s willingness to move to Finland and learn Finnish,” Adds Ms Goitandia.
Basque and Finnish are unrelated, yet belong to a tiny group of non-Indo-European languages. Their native speakers are famously proud of their national cultures and heritage, a trait that Ms Goitandia believes cemented links in this project.
With EURES-Lanbide’s assistance, Finnish language courses were organised over 12 weeks at the University of the Basque Country’s Bilbao campus for the 46 nurses selected. Students achieved EU A2 level, equivalent to a good basic knowledge of a foreign language.
By December 2012, some 30 nurses were recruited to work in Finland as auxiliaries, with geriatric patients or in care homes. They continue to study Finnish and will take an exam at the end of their six-month trial period. If their new language skills are good enough, they can expect to be taken on as full-time nurses in their adopted country.
“At the invitation of EURES in Satakunta, Basque EURES Advisers recently visited the recruited nurses,” says Ms Goitandia. “They seem happy in their new jobs and are adapting well to the Finnish climate and society.” She adds that the hiring companies smoothed the transition for the Basque nurses, by making small changes to working practices.
As for the elderly Finnish patients in clinics where the nurses work, they are said to be “delighted with their new helpers, but amused by the strange accents!”
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