Employment in the EU, Norway and Switzerland for doctors outside of EU

Doctors and medical staff coming from a non-EU country often have several ideas about how difficult or easy it is to get a license to work in the EU or EEA environment. To help you understand what job opportunities are available in the EU for doctors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and other non-EEA countries, we list you necessary steps and actions you need to take to get a job in:

Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium and France.

In order to successfully obtain a license in any of these countries, it is necessary to have an identical foundation: motivation and patience in the process. Given that the initial part of the licensing process in many countries can take as long as 6 months, in some cases, even more, we advise all the candidates to apply only when they are sure which country they want to apply for and to do their best to succeed and get the license on time.

UK and Ireland

We have already written about the UK and Ireland in our previous blogs (instructions on how to join the GMC register, how to register as a doctor in Ireland).

Medical staff who have completed their education outside of the UK will need to verify education through EPIC. EPIC is an ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates) organization used to ensure the integrity and authenticity of diplomas and certificates worldwide, and in direct contact with institutions, verifies and compares education standards around the world. This rigorous procedure ensures that every doctor applying for registration in a chamber of another country has the same subjects passed as a doctor who has completed his or her home education. They ask you to provide them with documentation such as a diploma and a certificate of internship and compare everything you have learned and passed with standards in the UK and Ireland. This link provides process instructions through EPIC, and here you have an additional explanation of what to do when EPIC confirms your qualifications.

In this part of the process, you may need to pass several additional subjects so that the chamber can accept your diploma as valid. Once you have passed the differential courses, as well as language courses, it is possible to complete your registration and obtain a license in the country you want.

Germany

To obtain a medical license in Germany, the so-called “Approbation” requires knowledge of the B2 level language and certain provinces require knowledge of medical German at the C1 level. Candidates begin the application process by contacting the competent medical authority for the province in which they plan to work, and a list of provinces and competent authorities’ contacts is available at the link.

The competent authority, which is responsible for granting a working medical license, compares the qualifications of non-EU doctors with the German standard. If there are significant differences between the two education processes and the doctor does not have enough professional experience to fill in any shortcomings, the candidate will be referred to the proficiency tests, so-called “Kenntnisprüfung”. This test covers family medicine, general surgery, pharmacology and emergency medicine, and the candidate may have to take additional tests depending on their specialization. The Kenntnisprüfung is an oral exam that lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, and involves solving imaginary cases for the committee to assess the candidate’s knowledge qualitatively, and can be taken up to a maximum of 2 times. After passing this test and sometimes another oral exam, “Fachsprachprüfung”, which checks the applicant’s medical dictionary and readiness to communicate with patients, the applicant can obtain a license and can start working in Germany.

 

Austria

In addition to evidence of C1 language proficiency, except for the applicant having previous medical experience in a German-speaking country of at least 3 years, Austria is also seeking the certification of a diploma through the medical universities of Vienna, Graz or Innsbruck. The candidate should contact one of these universities personally to equate their medical education with the Austrian standard. After equalizing education, each candidate must pass a national exam that is standard for all future physicians who have received their education in Austria to have a right to obtain a license.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the countries with the most rigorous licensing process for both EU nationals and non-EU nationals. Knowledge of the language used in the canton in which the candidate plans to work is required at a minimum B2-C1 level. These languages include German, Italian and French.

Candidate should contact MEBEKO to be recognized for external medical education. However, to qualify for medical practice in Switzerland, the candidate has three options:

  1. Studying at one of the Swiss medical faculties, to which the candidate must apply personally and apply for admission to the last 3 years of the faculty.
  2. Working for a minimum of 3 years as a resident in Switzerland, after which the applicant is required to pass both parts of the national medical examination.
  3. Work at least 5 years as a resident in Switzerland, after which the candidate must pass the written part of the state medical exam.

After completing the study, or passing the state exam, the candidate may obtain a license allowing the practice of medicine within the borders of Switzerland.

Sweden

One of the prerequisites for obtaining a doctor’s license in Sweden is language proficiency at the C1 level. With knowledge of the language, every doctor who has completed his education outside the EU needs to undergo additional specialized training to adapt to the Swedish system and make up for any differences in education. For the competent authority to accept the diploma, it is necessary to forward a translated (in Swedish or English) version of the diploma to Socialstyrelsen, which will give the candidate feedback whether they accept or reject the equalization of education. All candidates must pass a proficiency test to confirm their knowledge of general medicine. After the proficiency test, the applicant must take a course in Swedish medical law and law, and if the prerequisites are satisfied, the candidate may begin specialist training whose completion may be practised independently in Sweden.

 

Denmark

As with the application conditions for the UK and Ireland, the candidate’s education is compared to the standard in Denmark with the help of the ECFMG. After successfully equalizing education, or taking additional tests if necessary, the candidate is required to submit documentation confirming their knowledge of the Danish language. Language tests, Prøve and Dansk 3, are held in Denmark twice a year between May and June, and November and December, and a minimum score of 10, 7, 7 are required. Language tests can be passed before the start of the application, however, the results do not may be older than 12 months if the candidate has stayed outside the country during that time.

The next step is to become familiar with the Danish healthcare system and the legislation in medicine. These courses are held 4 to 5 times a year, last for 3 days, and at the end, the candidate must pass a written test confirming knowledge of the material. The final placement gives the candidate a job opportunity for training purposes, the “evalueringsansættelse”, the duration of which depends on the specialization and, of course, whether the candidate has the previous specialization in the home country. By completing the training process, the doctor has the right to obtain a full-fledged license which permits the independent practice of medicine in Denmark.

 

Norway

Doctors who want to work in Norway start the registration process at the Norwegian Health Authority, or as the Norwegian call it “Helsedirektoratet”. The Helsedirektoratet is also working with the ECFMG to identify and equate candidate education with what is required in the Norwegian health education system. After the candidate has created an account in EPIC and submitted the necessary documentation, the ECFMG will instruct the candidate who is required to take additional courses for certain qualifications where there is a deficit. Once the education is in line with the Norwegian standard, the candidate is required to pass the Bergen Norwegian language test with a minimum score of 500/B and also take a medical law course.

Once the candidate has fulfilled all the requirements, he/she is given the possibility of employment in the position of specialist, which, of course, if the doctor demonstrates satisfactory knowledge and skills, gives the right to obtain a full medical license upon completion of the specialization.

France

France has a special name for doctors coming from outside the EU Member States, and that name is PADHUE (prakticiense diplome hors Europeenne). Each year, the State Ministry of Health determines the number of doctors from outside the EU who are eligible to start the licensing process in France, and the list of required documentation and the application process are on the link.

The whole process is carried out through two main phases, of which the first phase consists of equalizing education, taking additional tests and examining language skills. The second phase is the evaluation of education in a hospital setting and involves working as an assistant physician for three years. After this period, the candidate may take an oral examination before a committee recommending the applicant to the Ministry of Health, whose approval also means the final right to obtain a license.

Alternatively, you can complete your education in France and, depending on your level of specialization, can last from 1 to 3 years. In order for a doctor to compete for the possibility of obtaining an education at French universities, it is necessary to apply through the French Embassy in the home country, and since positions are restricted among the applicants, the selection is made.

 

Belgium

Equalization of education in Belgium is carried out by a competent authority called NARIC. This competent authority is responsible for comparing the candidate’s education with the standard in Belgium. The process starts at the link.

Once the education is equalized, the applicant must apply for a license to practice medicine in Belgium, and the same is done through the form which needs to be sent to visa@health.fgov.be. Once a doctor has received a certificate, he can officially become a medical practitioner in Belgium.

Each of these countries has a different culture and offers a different possibilities for all residents, it is up to you to choose what works best for you and begin the process of obtaining a license, and we will do our best to find the position that suits your wishes once you get your license and set your goals in the new environment and the new workplace. However, if you consider all these processes to be complicated, there is another way to obtain a medical license in one of these countries. Namely, all health professionals who have a diploma in the Republic of Croatia and who have been employed and work continuously for a minimum of 3 years in Croatia are entitled to automatic recognition of qualifications as well as health professionals coming from the EU 🙂

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