Specialist training in Sweden from the perspective of Iris, a family doctor

18. January 2023.

How was the journey from Zrinka’s Swedish school to specialist training in Sweden for Iris, a family doctor who sought happiness for herself and her family in Scandinavia.

Review of Dr. Iris, a family doctor in Sweden

Our interlocutor, Iris Đipalo Juretić, started her career as a demining doctor, and continued to build it firmly through various experiences as a doctor in the Emergency Service, where she spent six years. For the next 9 years, she worked as a family medicine concessionaire in her own practice when she decided it was time for new challenges – to become a family medicine specialist in Sweden. With the support of her husband and son, she began researching Sweden and gathering all the relevant information necessary for a new beginning.

With Zrinka’s school of Swedish until specialization in Sweden

Iris heard many positive experiences about Sweden, which prompted her to seek specialization in a country with “better working conditions, opportunities for adequate advancement and evaluation of knowledge”. In order to more easily compete in the Swedish market of doctors, she decided to enroll in Zrinka’s Swedish school – an online language course that she could take from the comfort of her home. Taking a Swedish language course is a prerequisite for starting work in Swedish hospitals and better competing among colleagues. In Zrinka’s school of Swedish, all materials are available online, and learning a new language is completely facilitated, so the time for learning is flexible.

After the completion of the language course, the work license was obtained and the search for open positions offering the specialization of family physicians began. And why the specialization in Sweden and not in Croatia? One of the main advantages of Sweden’s Swedish specialist system is that there is no specialist exam, which automatically means less stress. “When you have completed all the mandatory courses and rotations at the hospital and work in the parent DZ, you submit the documentation to the rector, who checks it and sends it to their chamber. In the middle of the specialist training, you have a joint meeting with the mentor, the head of the DZ and the rector about your progress, so there is a possibility of shortening the time of the specialization, which normally lasts 5 years.” – says Iris with satisfaction.

During specialization, it is necessary to take mandatory courses for which the hospital pays for travel expenses and food, and in addition, it is possible to register for other courses of your own interest. Iris describes what it looks like in practice: “On a tour of the hospital, it is mandatory to go through internal medicine for 6 months, psychiatry for 12, pediatrics for 10 weeks and gynecology for 4 weeks. Once a month we have a ST day when all the specialists from the region gather. In the morning we have an organized lecture, and in the afternoon we work in a base group where we discuss the difficulties we face, and then twice a year the representatives of the groups try to solve the problems together with the rectors (leaders of training).

What are the working conditions in Sweden?

Starting work in a foreign country and in a completely new business environment is a stressful undertaking for many people. But Iris decided to take the risk and check all the positive stories she had heard, and there was no disappointment. “Working conditions in Sweden and Croatia are immeasurable. You have time for administration, time for examinations, telephone conversations. According to the competencies, you get a number of daily examinations that you have to do, but everything can be agreed upon. If you want to work 80 percent, your specialization is extended by one year. Here, many use shorter working hours because they want more time for themselves. My goal is to finish my specialization as soon as possible so that I can work full time.” – Iris is satisfied with her choice of specialist training.

The number of patients also increases with the year of specialization, but this number is still much lower than in Croatia. “In the first year of specialization there are 35 (patients), in the second 42, in the third 46, in the fourth 44 because most of the time you are on hospital rounds, in the fifth 47. In a private health center the salaries are better, but you also work more. However, it is not something more for us who come from Croatia when you have over 100 contacts a day.” – explains Iris, who is much more satisfied with the working conditions in Sweden than in Croatia.

“Some say that Swedes are cold and unapproachable. I didn’t get that impression.” – Iris is honest about her new colleagues. “My colleagues, especially the lower medical and administrative staff, accepted me very well and helped me integrate into the team. Hanging out every day at a famous fika, lunch or once a month at a get-together after work does not leave the impression of cold people, but the other way around. Every gathering we have, I get a special reminder that I mustn’t not come because that wouldn’t be it.” – laughs Iris, and only the best about the patients: “Patients, like everywhere, are different here. I personally have a very positive experience. To the great surprise of other colleagues, I received flowers, chocolate, home-baked cakes several times, because they say that is not usual for Swedes. But I look at it this way – as much as you give, you get.”

Persistence and patience is the way to go

Through Zrinka’s school of Swedish all the way to specialization in Sweden, it seems like a long road, but one that pays off. “Specializing in Sweden gives you the opportunity to get a quality education and to have a quality private life. It may seem difficult at first because of a new language, a different culture of living, but the Swedish relaxation, nature, working environment quickly comes to the fore.” – says Iris from her perspective. And finally, he has one piece of advice to share that can help new colleagues who decide to make this change in life. “Persistence and patience. Once you enter the system, you can change the work environment, negotiate the salary, work extra and live a quality life.”

You can see more reviews and experiences of our candidates here!


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