The Swedish Solution

The last year Sweden, as well as other European countries, experienced a large influx of immigrants. More than 160 000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden 2015, which is a substantial amount for a country of 9.9 million inhabitants.

The last year Sweden, as well as other European countries, experienced a large influx of immigrants. More than 160 000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden 2015, which is a substantial amount for a country of 9.9 million inhabitants. Many of the immigrants have a high level of education and some of them are medical doctors. After a perilous journey overcoming numerous obstacles the people arriving in Sweden face other challenges, one of which is Swedish bureaucracy. Sweden has for a long time had a complicated process for validating medical degrees from outside the EU. A specialist who has trained outside the EU, trying to get licensed in Sweden, is faced with a time consuming and laborious process that could last as long as seven years. After that awaits the next procedure - of getting the specialist degree validated.

SYLF and the Swedish Medical Association are working together to change the system and make the validation process shorter and more efficient. The National Board of Health and Welfare, the government agency which issues the Swedish licenses, has been involved and granted more money to speed up their part of the application process. Our attempts to influence the government to improve conditions for doctors coming to Sweden from outside the EU have in many ways been successful and is a prioritised policy area. The National Board of Health and Welfare has for example issued new rules to simplify the process.

Furthermore, SYLF has had talks with healthcare employers trying to push for the possibility for service providers to accept doctors going through the validation process to their clinics, both as trainees at an early stage in the process, and later on in a more formalised role as a part of the actual validation process.

SYLF and the Swedish Medical Association have also been in close contact with an organisation called Future Healthcare Workers created by a doctor who himself has undergone the process of getting a Swedish license to practice medicine. The group has helped us understand the needs of newly arrived doctors. An important part of our work has been to facilitate contacts between the group and different national institutions.

In addition to our advocacy work on the national level for a better validation process, SYLF started a language cafe in Stockholm where doctors from other countries and cultures can meet Swedish doctors in a relaxed environment over a cup of coffee, practice their Swedish and learn about how the Swedish healthcare system works. The language café has been a very successful and appreciated project. Numerous SYLF local organisations soon followed and a number of local language cafés have been started throughout the country.

The work for better conditions for doctors coming to Sweden from outside the EU continues, on the national and local level. Sweden has a shortage of doctors in a number of specialties.  We need to do all we can to create a safe and efficient process that will enable our new colleagues to make use of their competencies – and thereby supporting integration and improved Swedish healthcare provision