06 Dec 2017

Poland on the brink of a catastrophic nurse shortage

According to OECD data from 2015, there are 5.2 nurses per thousand inhabitants in Poland. This places our country at the very bottom of the EU. Switzerland is at the top of the list (17.9), followed by our German neighbors (13.3).

Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk
Magdalena Karst-Adamczyk Wysokie Obcasy, Global
Source: Wysokie Obcasy
Poland on the brink of a catastrophic nurse shortage - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

According to OECD data from 2015, there are 5.2 nurses per thousand inhabitants in Poland. This places our country at the very bottom of the EU. Switzerland is at the top of the list (17.9), followed by our German neighbors (13.3).

The problem could be even more serious than it appears. To cope with staffing issues, many health care centers have to employ one nurse with several contracts to bypass the legal limit of working hours. Most nurses work up to 300 hours a month.

On Monday, December 4, a grassroots initiative -- the Digital Association of Nurses -- organized the "One Job" campaign. Organizers urged nurses across the country to work at only one job, within legal hours, for a single day. The initiative was meant to raise awareness of the problem. In the organizers' opinion, the situation will only worsen in the foreseeable future.

"Many nurses will reach retirement age in a year or two, and then things will snowball" says Katarzyna Kowalska of the Digital Association of Nurses. "There will be a lack that we won't be able to fill."

Among the youth, there is very little interest in the profession. Nurses are not a particularly respected professional group in Poland. While in other countries, like Sweden, these are people with broad competences, who can replace doctors in some cases, in Poland -- especially in hospitals -- patients treat them as glorified janitors.

Polish nurses are also disheartened by how their previous requests were ignored by the government and relevant authorities. As a result, many of them decided to work abroad -- in better conditions, and for better money.

"A prisoner in Poland costs 3,100 zł per month to the state. The average nurse earns 2,500 zł per month. In Poland, employees of the care sector have the lowest income," says K. Kowalska.

Minimum wage for a job that requires both mental and physical strength? If the government does not act quickly, and if the patients don't refrain from taking out their frustration at the state of healthcare on hospital employees, we will all be in danger soon.

Details from the story:

  • Most nurses in Poland have more than one job
  • In Poland there are 5.2 nurses per thousand inhabitants. In Germany there are 13.3.
  • The average nurse's salary is 2,500 zł per month (for comparison, the maintenance of a prisoner costs the state 3,100 zł per month).
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