Nurses union: Estonian healthcare system needs at least 500 more nurses

Nurses working at a hospital. Photo is illustrative.
Nurses working at a hospital. Photo is illustrative. Source: ERR

The Estonian Nurses Union declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in Estonia on Monday, with which it seeks to draw attention to the need for at least another 500 nurses in the country's healthcare system.

The event, which was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), seeks to draw attention to the fact that approximately 500 nurse positions are currently unfilled in Estonia, spokespeople for the Nurses Union (EÕL) said in a press release. In reality, however, the Estonian healthcare system actually needs another 4,000 nurses.

Anneli Kannus, president of the EÕL, commended working nurses for their spirit and sense of mission. She also, however, referred to the high risk of burnout nurses face.

"Because of the lack of nurses in the system, the nurses work more than full-time or work overtime," Kannus said. "Thus, they sacrifice their health and well-being to care for the health of their patients."

There are currently approximately 8,300 working nurses in Estonia, but there are more than 500 vacancies in the country's healthcare system. The need for nursing services is constantly growing, and nurses are ready to take on more responsibilities, such as by helping monitor the condition of chronically ill patients.

In order to meet this need, the national goal is to increase the number of nurses to nine persons per 1,000 residents. Under this goal, Estonia currently falls some 4,000 nurses short.

"In order to alleviate the shortage of nurses, it is necessary to increase the volume of training, which is currently limited by both a lack of funding for higher education institutions and the non-payment by the state of internship instructors," Kannus said. "Approximately half of nursing studies consists of internships at various healthcare institutions, but for practicing nurses, supervising nursing students involves unpaid extra work, often done only out of a sense of mission. Without the inclusion of nursing practice instruction fees in nursing training costs, there will be no solution to the growing need in society for nurses."

Nearly all healthcare institutions are prepared to immediately hire more nurses. North Estonia Medical Center (PERH), for example, would be prepared to hire an additional 100 nurses, while East-Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK) is currently some 50 nurses short.

A newly established service of the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) which will create a nurse position at nursing homes will bring with it the need for nearly 200 nurses.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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