The latest experience from our doctors who moved abroad comes from Goran Jurcan, a psychiatrist who moved from Croatia to Davos, a small town in eastern Switzerland. Goran moved to Central Europe in 2022 and quickly adapted to life in the Alps. We talked with Goran about his experience as he shared what the process of leaving and adapting to Switzerland looked like.
What prompted you to move, and why did you decide on Switzerland?
The decision to move and work abroad has been brewing for the last few years and it was by far the most difficult part of the whole process. As I learned the language better every day and slowly got to know the culture of the German-speaking countries, this decision became more and more natural for me. Working in the Croatian health system has become more and more tiring for me due to a series of illogicalities that doctors in Croatia face daily. The desire for substantial change as well as for communication is simply not there, and the realization that I would have to work in such an environment for the rest of my working life began to terrify me. I took the first step on my own, and found a job post in a hospital in Austria, to which I sent an application. Soon I got an invitation for a job interview, but during the visit, I didn’t like a few things. The position was not immediately available, and I did not receive an answer to all the working conditions that I could expect. That’s when I decided to contact INCOR because I thought they would better represent my interests and guide me through the entire process. From the current point of view, it was an excellent decision. The whole process is quite time-consuming. The help of an agent, who is familiar with all the details of the documentation, is more than welcome. In Austria, a C1 language diploma is required, while in Germany and Switzerland a B2 diploma is sufficient. In Germany and Austria, an additional exam in medical German is taken, but not in Switzerland. Given that I had a B2 level diploma and that I wanted to work in a small environment, that my family are mountain lovers and that I knew that the working conditions were the best in Switzerland, I decided on Switzerland. The whole process begins with the collection and translation of documentation. Something standard in German-speaking countries is a letter of recommendation from your employer, so you will also need to ask for that at your home institution. After I have collected the documentation, the agent I was in contact with contacted potential employers. I received 5 job offers. The conversations took place online, and after I decided on one offer, we also arranged a visit to the hospital. The costs of the visit were covered by the hospital. I spent one day at the hospital and got to know the facility and the way it works. After the visit, both the employer and I decided to continue cooperation. This was followed by the second part with the documentation. Recognition of diplomas takes about 2 months, as well as obtaining a license to perform medical activities issued by the canton. The whole process from the beginning of the job search takes 6-10 months.
How would you compare working conditions in Switzerland with those in Croatia?
Right from the start, I have to note that the comparison is not fully direct, as in Croatia I worked in the Psychiatric Clinic of the Faculty of Medicine, and in Switzerland, I work in a private rehabilitation hospital, so it may not be entirely fair to compare an acute clinic with a rehabilitation clinic. Working hours in Switzerland are longer than in Croatia. Residents work from 8 am to 6 pm with a break between 12 pm and 1 pm. During the break, you may not be contacted, but if something acute happens, the doctor on duty is called. You can use the break however you want, you can go for lunch, run, walk, or ride a bike. The working hours of doctors in leading positions are somewhat more flexible, although, as a rule, they do not differ much from the working hours of residents. This is certainly the biggest flaw of the system in Switzerland, but on the other hand, the organization of work is at such a level that you don’t go home exhausted at the end of the day. People are employed just to plan doctors’ working days so, at the beginning of the day, you get a plan with the exact work schedule for that day. This is unimaginable for doctors in Croatia. Salaries are 4-6 times higher than in Croatia, depending on experience and position you can expect between 100 and 200 thousand francs gross per year. The cost of living is on average 3 times higher than in Croatia. The biggest difference between Croatia and Switzerland is that there is a lot of care about personnel policy, the exact number of workers and their workload planned. The system is set on sound foundations, and the price of health care is realistic, unlike the price of the service in Croatia, which is several times lower than the real one, so workers have to do a huge amount of work to earn a salary. In Croatia, you often work at several sites at the same time, which is not the case here.
What are Swiss people like at work and in everyday life?
The entire medical team consists of about 15 doctors, and only one is Swiss. In Switzerland, you can get to know multiculturalism in the full sense of the word. I personally like it a lot. You don’t feel like you are seen as a foreigner because the vast majority of other employees are also foreigners. People are extremely kind. There is no existential cramp that is ubiquitous in Croatia. People are calmer and visibly more satisfied there. As I live in Davos, a small town in the heart of the Alps, the people there are also very sports-oriented, so hiking, skiing, cycling, and running are simply part of everyday life. The organization is part of the Swiss culture, so I believe that this will delight you the most in this country.
How did you find the moving process?
The hospital has 30 beautiful studios available for short-term rent, so I didn’t have to worry about accommodation. It also offers apartments for long-term rent. I still found an apartment by myself because I also have two dogs, so that was partly a problem because pets are not allowed in hospital apartments. What I must emphasize here is that the hospital also helped me find an apartment. Obtaining a residence visa takes about a month from the start of work. After obtaining the visa, you can also apply for a family reunification visa, which takes a few more weeks. The apartments here are unfurnished, the rent contract lasts at least one year. For the deposit, you will need to pay two rents in advance to a secured account that is not at the disposal of the landlord, but a third party (insurer). You have 3 months from arrival to arrange health insurance, which, depending on the package you take, costs approx. 200-400 francs per month.
How did your family and friends react when you decided to leave?
Reactions were mixed but mostly positive. I lived outside my hometown for years, so this step was not a big shock for the family. The fact that I can now help my family financially in case of need means a lot to me. In Croatia, I mostly only managed to cover my current living expenses.
How did you get to INCOR?
I found out about INCOR through a friend who was satisfied with the service and advised me to contact the agency. That would certainly be my advice since there are a lot of little things during the whole process that is better-taken care of by a professional familiar with the entire procedure. You will save a lot of nerves and time.
Do you have any advice for doctors who are considering relocating to another country?
From the decision to leave to the realization, you have enough time to emotionally digest everything together. It is the most difficult to make a decision, and at the start, everything seems much more painful than it is in reality. The experience of working in another system can only enrich you and give you a better insight into your health system and society in general.