Spanish nurses are massively looking for better working conditions

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Spanish nurses

A real exodus is taking place in Spain among nursing staff. In 2023, more than 8,000 nurses will have left their native province in search of better working conditions. Some left for other areas in Spain where they saw better opportunities, others left abroad.

The General Council of Nurses of Spain (CGE) on Thursday denounced the unjust working conditions faced by nurses in the Spanish labour market. Their departure will cause ‘significant damage’ to the quality of healthcare in Spain, the council warned.

Poor working conditions

According to chairman Florentino Pérez Raya, temporary employment among nurses remains at 30%. That percentage is far from the 8% target set by the government. The council criticises the daily circumstances of these healthcare professionals. They are often offered contracts per day or even per hour, with low salaries for relatively heavy work. Many nurses live from contract to contract. This creates uncertainty as to whether they will still have a job next month. This affects their personal lives considerably. It is often impossible for them to combine work and private life due to irregular working hours. The schedules for temporary workers are also often extremely unfavourable. They never have the security of work. Therefore, they do not qualify for a mortgage and it is difficult to build an independent life.

Unjust consequences of contract refusal

In many cases, the refusal of these conditions leads to a punishment that brings the nurses directly to the last place in the labour reserve. That is “completely unjust”, according to the CGE. This phenomenon illustrates the need for a policy review to guarantee the quality of care and prevent talented professionals from being forced to seek refuge elsewhere.

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Spain among countries with fewest nurses

At European level, Spain is one of the countries with the fewest nurses: the ratio is 6.3 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants, below the continental average of 8.73. “About 50,000 nurses would be needed to reach the average,” the CGE has confirmed. And yet in 2023 alone, 1,473 nurses have applied for the necessary documentation from the council to be able to work outside Spain.

The main destination for these departures is currently Norway, for which the CGE has received 336 applications. This is followed by the United States (226) and the UK (92), a country where the number of Spanish emigrants has decreased after Brexit. The next countries on the list are Ireland (60), Netherlands (43), Australia (41), France (40), Switzerland (39), Canada (22), Belgium (13), Saudi Arabia (11) and Portugal (11).

Not just a problem in for Spanish nurses

However, the lack of nurses is a global problem: it is estimated that approximately six million nurses are needed. With upcoming retirements and possible outflows from the profession, there will be a shortage of 30 million professionals worldwide, according to CGE. 4.7 million healthcare professionals plan to retire. In addition, between 2 and 3 million nurses are considering quitting due to exhaustion fuelled by the pandemic,

Because there is a shortage in Spain, healthcare institutions are increasingly hiring nurses from South American countries. Last year, the diplomas of 305 non-European nurses were homologated.

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