Shortage of specialized nurses leads to fewer hospital beds in Sweden

July 14, 2015 5:28 am 

STOCKHOLM, July 13 — Sweden's nursing shortage and especially its lack of specialized nurses — hits the country' healthcare system hard during the summer months.

The intensive care unit at Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital currently uses just 10 out of its 12 beds and a specially-equipped operation hall stands empty throughout the year. The reason is the shortage of specialized nurses, a problem that can be found throughout Sweden.

Many county councils and regions are struggling to find competent nurses, especially during the summer.

"I think it's pretty sad. We would love to have more colleagues here so that we can keep all places open," Lina Bergman, an intensive-care nurse at the Karolinska University Hospital, told Swedish Television.

The greatest shortage is found within intensive care, anesthetics and surgery, but there is also a lack of nurses within elderly care and psychiatry.

According to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare's latest labor-market survey, the country's share of specialized nurses has gone done in recent years, from 50 percent of all nurses employed in health care in 2007 down to 46 percent in 2012.

"I think it is because of a lack of motivation to educate oneself. You have to pay for the training out of your own pocket, you don't get satisfactory salary raises once you are in a job and there is no guarantee that you will get more varied tasks at work," Ann Johansson, vice president of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, told Swedish Television.

According to Statistics Sweden, the average age of specialized nurses is 54 and more than 70 percent are 45 years old or above. With a large share retiring in the next two decades, the shortage will only intensify unless the problem is addressed.

The Swedish Association of Health Professionals estimates that there will be a shortage of around 11,000 specialized nurses in Sweden 10 years from now, a trend that also worries the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.

"We are already seeing that some regional councils and hospital have trouble recruiting specialized nurses," Agnets Johnk, head of the body's negotiations team, said.

Swedish nurses themselves say that they want higher wages, more long-terms solutions for better work environments and opportunities to develop professionally so that more nurses chose to embark on additional training and specialize. (PNA/Xinhua)

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