Hundreds of highly educated foreign nurses are working in Finland in positions unrelated to their education, for example as a care assistant or as a practical nurse (1).” I worked as a care assistant one year and then I studied to become a practical nurse through an apprenticeship contract in Finland”, says Ronalyn, who completed the Career Boost Programme at Metropolia UAS in 2022 (2). Before moving to Finland, she studied four years getting a Bachelor´s level nursing degree in the Philippines.
Career Boost for Foreign Nurses
Over the years, universities of applied sciences have organised various qualification projects for foreign nurses (3). One such project, The Career Boost Programme started at Metropolia UAS in spring 2021 and it was organised by Oske project (4). The programme included:
- Theoretical studies (approx. 30 ECTS) implemented mostly online. The studies are mandated by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, Valvira,
- Clinical nursing training held in a simulation hospital at Metropolia.
- Finnish language teaching integrated into the professional subject studies.
- Supervised internship in healthcare facilities mandated by Valvira for approximately 10-12 weeks depending on the student’s education and previous working experience.
Longing to Be a Nurse
Ronalyn just happened to bump into information about the Career Boost Programme on social media and she decided to have a career change after working as a practical nurse for a few years. Working as a practical nurse helped her learn Finnish language and gave her a good understanding of the Finnish care culture. “I missed working as a nurse and being at the hospital. As a care assistant or a practical nurse, you can only give basic care. I felt like my nursing skills and education were wasted. I even missed the smell of antibiotics”, Ronalyn chuckles.
Adult Learning requires Creativity
Adult learning can be challenging. One ECTS credit point equals 27 actual study hours. In the Career Boost programme, the students studied both Finnish language skills and the nursing practice at the same time. Most adult learners have a full-time job (practical nurses might have a three-shift rotation) and some might have a family with small children. The biggest challenge in adult learning seems to be coordinating different aspects of everyday life (5). “I asked from my boss to get night shifts. When there was a peaceful moment during the night shift, I studied” Ronalyn says. Students who are working full-time and taking care of everyday life responsibilities may need to find creative ways to fit studying into their schedules.
Flexible Learning Solutions
Adult learners need flexible ways to study. By offering flexible learning solutions, students can have more choices to reach their educational goals. The Career Boost Programme was open to participants from all over Finland. With the help of online learning, the students can develop their skills while continuing to work full-time. This can be crucial if the residence permit is work-based or studying full-time is not otherwise possible. However, online studies require a lot of self-management and adult students have to balance their personal life and uncompleted study tasks weighing on their mind (6.). “I was always stressed out”, Ronalyn remembers. Time management and good study strategies are therefore essential skills for successful learning (7).
When teaching online, the challenge for teachers is to develop different ways of ensuring interaction with and between the students. Distance learning can be quite lonely, so it is important to create spaces where social relationships can be supported and where students can share experiences with their peers. This can give learners a sense of belonging to an online group, which can help them engage, participate and actively complete learning tasks (8). In the Career Boost Programme, the students had the opportunity to interact with the teachers in weekly online learning sessions on Zoom, where, in addition to studying a pre-determined topic, they had a chance to ask for advice and discuss the assignments.
“The teachers were very supportive”, Ronalyn reflects, “We had a Whatsapp group where you could get a quick answer to any matter.” In addition to distance learning, the students practiced nursing skills at Metropolia’s simulation hospital in Myllypuro, Helsinki. Ronalyn had to travel all the way from Northern Finland to the Myllypuro campus for the simulation days. Fortunately, she found an internship at a University Hospital closer to home and the supervised internship was paid for. “It’s easier to get an internship during the summer”, Ronalyn advises new students.
The Career Boost programme ended in December 2022. Overall 36 participants completed their qualification studies during the project. In the beginning of 2023, Metropolia UAS started a new programme for healthcare professionals, where nurses, biomedical laboratory scientists, midwives, physiotherapists and radiographers with a foreign bachelor’s degree can complete qualification studies. Registration for the programme is ongoing. (9,10). The project, called “Terveysalan ammattilaisten pätevöitymispolku 2023-2024”, wants to support underemployed healthcare professionals to qualify their foreign degrees to get a job equivalent to their education. Although adult learning is sometimes demanding, it is a good opportunity to reach your professional goals.
“At the moment I still have a permanent position as a practical nurse because of my working permit issue, but I do gigs occasionally at the hospital. When I work as a licensed nurse, I feel free”, Ronalyn explains. “In the future, I hope I can get a permanent job as an anesthetic nurse or I could work at the OR. There you can see a whole new world in a small room.”
1) Yle news 2022. https://yle.fi/a/3-12630299 Viewed on 16 March 2023.
2) Ronalyn. Participant in the Career Boost Programme at Metropolia UAS 2023. Interview.
3) Pitkänen, A-H, 2021. Pätevöitymiskoulutuksella Boostia sairaanhoitajapulaan. Blog post. https://blogit.metropolia.fi/montamuuttujaa/2021/11/29/patevoitymiskoulutuksella-boostia-sairaanhoitajapulaan/
4) Developing competence center functions for highly educated immigrants in the Helsinki region (Oske project). Webpage. https://www.metropolia.fi/en/rdi/rdi-projects/competence-center-of-helsinki-region Viewed on 16 March 2023.
5) Repo, S. 2010. Yhteisöllisyys voimavarana yliopisto-opetuksen ja -opiskelun kehittämisessä. Helsingin yliopisto. Käyttäytymistieteiden laitos. Kasvatustieteellisiä tutkimuksia 228. https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/19875/yhteisol.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
6) Peltola M., Suorsa T. & Silvola J. 2022. ”Opinnot ikään kuin leijuvat olohuoneessamme” Etäopiskelijan arki oppimisen ja kehityksen ympäristönä ja neuvottelun paikkana. Aikuiskasvatus 3/2022. http://jultika.oulu.fi/files/nbnfi-fe202301306499.pdf
7) Repo S, Vuoksenranta S-T & Ruokolainen, O. 2014. Kuinka avoimen yliopiston opiskelija yhdistää opiskelun, työn ja perheen. Aikuiskasvatus 4/2014. https://journal.fi/aikuiskasvatus/article/view/94106/52784
8) Gillett-Swan, J. 2017. The challenges of online learning: Supporting and engaging the isolated learner. Journal of Learning Design. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1127718.pdf
9) Additional studies for obtaining the practice at the nurse. Studies for nursing graduates from abroad. Webpage. https://www.metropolia.fi/en/academics/study-opportunities-for-immigrants/additional-studies-nurse Viewed on 16 March 2023.
10) Study opportunities and competence development for immigrants. Webpage. https://www.metropolia.fi/fi/opiskelu-metropoliassa/maahanmuuttajille Viewed on 16 March 2023.
Anu-Helena Pitkänen works as a Career Coach in Metropolia SIMHE services supporting highly educated immigrants with their employment and study paths in Finland. She is working in a collaboration project with the employment services of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa-Kerava to increase employment among international professionals in the Helsinki region. She is responsible for guiding the healthcare professionals in Metropolia’s new project “Terveysalan ammattilaisten pätevöitymispolku 2023-2024.”