Ukrainian nurses take B1 exam to continue medical studies in Estonian

Tallinn Health Care College.
Tallinn Health Care College. Source: ERR

After eight months of studying Estonian at Tallinn Health Care College (Tallinna Tervishoiu Kõrgkool), 22 Ukrainian nurses, who arrived in Estonia as war refugees, have reached a high enough level in the language to take the B1 exam. Those how pass, will be able to continue their nursing studies in Estonian from next fall.

After two further years of study at the college, they will then be able to resume working as nurses, but this time in Estonia.

At the end of September last year, an unusual opening ceremony took place at Tallinn Health Care College (Tallinna Tervishoiu Kõrgkool), as a group of war refugees, who had been working as nurses in Ukraine for years, returned to the classroom.

After studying the Estonian language three times a week since then, in addition to all their other family and work obligations, this Thursday, 17 of the 22 took the B1 level exam in Estonian,

"I think the exam was a bit difficult, but if you study and if you talk to Estonians sometimes, then I think the exam went well," said Oleksandra Pissarenko, an assistant nurse at Confido.

According to Pissarenko, Estonians tend to switch to Russian when communicating with her and she has to ask them specially to speak to her in Estonian.

"I tell them that I'm learning Estonian and I want to talk, I want to learn Estonian. I think my patients will help me to speak Estonian," she said.

Ljubov Boiko, who arrived in Estonia last March with her three-year-old son, began learning Estonian immediately.

"It's harder for me to speak, but I can understand a lot when people speak to me in Estonian. I'm afraid to speak though," said Boiko, who works as a caregiver at West Tallinn Central Hospital.

Boiko studied to become a nurse in Ukraine, before working there as part of an ambulance team. When she came to Estonia last spring, she soon began looking for a job in a hospital.

"I really like working in the Emergency Department (EMO) at the West Tallinn Central Hospital and I wanted to work there after my studies. The work in the EMO department is very hard, but I like it and it's very interesting," she said.

According to Boiko, working as a nurse in Estonia is very different from working as a nurse in Ukraine.

In Ukraine, a nurse is just a doctor's assistant, but in Estonia nurses have more tasks and more responsibilities. Here, for instance they are also able to see and assess patients.

Of the 22 Ukrainian nurses who started their studies in the fall, 17 took the language test this week.

"There are different reasons for this. There are those who have had to leave Estonia, those who have gone back to Ukraine. There are also those, who have moved on to other countries, and some have given up because they are in a very difficult financial situation and have to work in several jobs, so they simply cannot study," explained Siret Piirsalu, Estonian language teacher at Tallinn Health Care College.

All 22 nursing students are also mothers, with several children each.

The nurses will find out the results of their Estonian language exams on Monday. Those who pass will be able to continue their medical studies in the fall, as they will already be considered sufficiently proficient in Estonian.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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