Foreign nurses as the perfect solution, but only for those with patience.

Published on: 20 March 2018
During the Healthcare Week in Flanders, the extent of the nurse shortage in our hospitals and nursing homes once again became evident. Recent numbers show that the current influx is too low to support the increasingly ageing population. Highly educated nurses outside of Europe are ready to fill the gap. They are learning Dutch in their home countries, possess the technical skills required, and want to work. Why are they nowhere to be found in our hospitals? The procedure takes too long.

Data collected by Acerta shows that the average influx into the healthcare industry amounts to 27%. This is 2% less than the efflux and insufficient to compensate the workforce shortage, especially considering the increasingly ageing population. Nursing professionals are sought in all kinds of ways. An escape room is used to recruit future students, robots are finding their way into nursing homes, and the government is doing whatever it can to make the profession more attractive. Since the Belgian market is experiencing a shortage of candidates, Select Medical is seeking nurses abroad.

91% of healthcare staff is Belgian by nationality, which is 10% less than in the for-profit industry. Most of the foreign nursing professionals are from the Netherlands, France, and Morocco. But those countries are experiencing an increasing demand for nurses as well. So, we must expand our search outside of Europe’s borders. Certification of equivalent degrees is the reason why this process is delayed. Foreign nurses have the same skills, but equalising them on paper is taking too much time.

This constitutes a large obstacle for Select Medical. “We’ve recently started focusing on foreign nursing professionals. Especially from the United Arab Emirates,” Sophie Buytaert, a Select Medical consultant, explains. “Countries like the Philippines have a proper healthcare culture. Their hospitals are JCI-accredited; their nurses are required to possess technical skills and a broad range of competencies. The requirements for working in an Arab hospital are much stricter than in our own country. We know that Belgian patients would be in good hands.”

Local recruiters at the Select office in Dubai know the environment, hospitals, and universities, and are performing the initial screening. “We’ve currently found 8 highly capable candidates in the list of 120 CVs. We are introducing them to Belgian hospitals. The main obstacle? Time.” It takes a year to equalise degrees and grant the right visa. During that year, they can learn Dutch and take naturalisation courses, but hospitals cannot afford to wait that long. They need extra nurses now, not 12 months from now. “In 2018, the world has become small and digital; why can’t that progress be applied to speed up the process? It would tremendously boost the influx.”