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Inflows of foreign-born physicians and their access to employment and work experiences in health care in Finland: qualitative and quantitative study

07 Aug 2014

Background:
In many developed countries, including Finland, health care authorities customarily consider the international mobility of physicians as a means for addressing the shortage of general practitioners (GPs). This study i) examined, based on register information, the numbers of foreign-born physicians migrating to Finland and their employment sector, ii) examined, based on qualitative interviews, the foreign-born GPs’ experiences of accessing employment and work in primary care in Finland, and iii) compared experiences based on a survey of the psychosocial work environment among foreign-born physicians working in different health sectors (primary care, hospitals and private sectors).
Methods:
Three different data sets were used: registers, theme interviews among foreign-born GPs (n = 12), and a survey for all (n = 1,292; response rate 42%) foreign-born physicians living in Finland. Methods used in the analyses were qualitative content analysis, analysis of covariance, and logistic regression analysis.
Results:
The number of foreign-born physicians has increased dramatically in Finland since the year 2000. In 2000, a total of 980 foreign-born physicians held a Finnish licence and lived in Finland, accounting for less than 4% of the total number of practising physicians. In 2009, their proportion of all physicians was 8%, and a total of 1,750 foreign-born practising physicians held a Finnish licence and lived in Finland. Non-EU/EEA physicians experienced the difficult licensing process as the main obstacle to accessing work as a physician. Most licensed foreign-born physicians worked in specialist care. Half of the foreign-born GPs could be classified as having an ‘active’ job profile (high job demands and high levels of job control combined) according to Karasek’s demand-control model. In qualitative interviews, work in the Finnish primary health centres was described as multifaceted and challenging, but also stressful.
Conclusions:
Primary care may not be able in the long run to attract a sufficient number of foreign-born GPs to alleviate Finland’s GP shortage, although speeding up the licensing process may bring in more foreign-born physicians to work, at least temporarily, in primary care. For physicians to be retained as active GPs there needs to be improvement in the psychosocial work environment within primary care.

Date: 
7 August 2014

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Human Resources for Health