Surge in interest in studying nursing followed Covid pandemic

Healthcare workers treating a COVID-19 patient in the North Estonia Medical Center.
Healthcare workers treating a COVID-19 patient in the North Estonia Medical Center. Source: Põhja-Eesti regionaalhaigla

Nursing has gained in popularity as a study discipline in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, ERR reports. However, the chronic nursing shortage remains, and will not be solved without making changes to the profession, some sector spokespeople say.

This year so far, 715 interested parties have applied to study basic nursing at Tartu Health Care College (Tartu Tervishoiu Kõrgkool) whom will be studying in Tartu and Narva.

Competition was unexpectedly fierce in Narva, with nearly six applicants per spot.

Nonetheless, resolving the shortage of health workers, put at close to 2,000 staff, in Estonia is not a straightforward matter.

Thanks to an agreement signed last year, the health care colleges of Tartu and Tallinn will increase the number of nursing study places to 700 places per year, up 200 on the number of places a few years ago.

However, there was still only room to accommodate around a fifth of applicants overall.

According to Heidi Alasepp, undersecretary for health at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the COVID pandemic may be behind the recent surge in popularity of the nursing profession. "It certainly raised health and its appreciation as an issue, throughout society. Another factor is that studying in this filed brings you a challenge, for the rest of your life," she went on.

Anneli Kannus, president of the nurses' union (Õdede liit), meanwhile says she believes there is still room for improvement. "Those young people who start their studies today will get to work as nurses in actuality only three-and-a-half years from now, meaning we have to reach the point where health care is really valued by those young people who enter the sector, within those three-and-a-half years."

Raising wages, improving conditions, and setting up proper load standards for hospitals, limits of responsibilities for nurses and care workers and the change to apply everything learned at college are among ways to do this, she added.

Further boosting college admissions, and ensuring that paid supervisors of interns are present in hospitals, are also needed.

Tartu Health College accepts new students in two intakes per year, Ave Kikas, head of studies organization there, said, while intakes were also held at Viljandi Hospital last year, in addition to Narva.

"Young people are getting work experienced even before they finish school, since the shortage of specialists is just that great," Kikas added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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