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Spanish nurses: jobless or in precariousness or obliged to emigrate

The problem is not only the basic wage in the public system but more about the lack of continuity regarding employment security. Internationally recognised for their preparation and some 7,609 Spanish nurses are now working in Britain.

Unemployment and constant mobility with substitute short term badly paid contracts is the panoramic horizon facing the health professionals who have seen an exodus of 20,000 jobs in the health sector of recent years, and newly qualified graduates are searching for work abroad.


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So said the director of international relations of the Nursing General Council (CGE in Spanish), Cristina García, who criticises the newly graduated are only finding work for only monthly or short contracts.

The ratio patient/nurse in Spain is 12.3 each nurse while the EU orders no more than eight.
‘There is some optimism, but continual ending of short contracts, lack of coverage for illness or vacancy or from retirement’ lamented García.

The favourite destination for Spanish nurses is the United Kingdom, for its closeness and universal language, but also for the permanent contracts offered and the following possibilities of promotion. According to data from the British Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) at the end of Feb 2017 the number of Spanish nurses who were helping the NHS reached 7,609.

Carlos works in London, a nurse who left Spain six years ago for an ‘international experience’ and although he is always wishing to return home he finds it impossible – ‘with the labour conditions offered in Spain, having adapted here, returning seems a step backwards’ he affirmed.

Great Britain offers employment promotion with opening more competences such as being a surgical assistant, which ‘in Spain is itemised as a separate profession’. This also leads to higher wages on a progressive scale to a British nurse obtaining a yearly wage from 20,000 and 100,000 pounds.

In Spain wages only rise with antiquity, based on days worked and often long times of unpaid overtime or nightly shifts. Regionalism regarding wages exists with Madrid paying a basic 1,800 € a month, plus bonuses, according to health union Satse, but the lack of job continuity.

Lara is a Spanish matron and tired of ‘replacement after replacement’ in the Spanish health system, Lara is now working in London. She notes the differences between the two public systems and notes in London each hospital employees its own staff and offers promotions and progression, while in Spain examinations are used at a regional level creating precarious job offers and finding fixed employment for youngsters is ‘almost impossible’.
Her work as a Matron is not controlled by a doctor, as in Spain and given the medical trust she has obtained and she will not return to Spain in the short term

France and Italy are next on the wish list although Germany is recruiting Spanish nursing professionals. 28 year old nurse from Madrid Laura was about to go to Germany but understood their position is less valued consisting as a nursing assistant, an inferior profession than hers, and given the difficulties of learning the language promotion is impossible.
Laura has been lucky and is working in Madrid where she feels the patients’ gratitude despite part of society considers doctors are more superior which unfortunately is not always realised.