Germany has a shortage of care workers. Although the population is ageing rapidly and the risk of becoming seriously ill or needing care increases with age, the number of young and healthy people who could take on this work is declining as a result of changing demographics. Many areas already face a critical shortage of skilled care workers and, according to all the forecasts, the problem is likely to get worse. To fill this gap, care facilities are recruiting personnel abroad.
Workshop at the University
The RIGL project “Integrating international care workers in regional healthcare and eldercare facilities” (IntIP) is investigating the situation specifically in the Fulda region. Recruiting qualified care workers from abroad is seen as a complementary strategy to secure the availability of skilled workers – alongside making care work a more attractive career prospect.
Nadja Noll is involved in the project as a research associate, and last spring and autumn supported a resource-oriented skills training programme for Brazilian healthcare professionals in the Nursing and Health Sciences department’s nursing lab. Although adaptation measures as part of the skills recognition procedure usually take place in nursing schools, in this case the University was involved for the first time. “The care workers enjoyed the academic environment of the campus,” says Noll. They developed an understanding of the German care system, which has a unique position internationally in that academic training in the profession is optional. In other countries, nursing professionals are usually required to undergo academic training and later have a wider range of responsibilities. In Germany, for example, the task of administering intravenous drugs and fluids is carried out by doctors and only delegated to other staff in special situations, whereas in most countries this is the responsibility of nursing staff.
This means that nurses and care workers coming to Germany from countries such as Brazil, India and Tunisia are actually already very well-qualified. Project research also shows that a resource-based approach to qualification recognition procedures has a positive impact on the process of integration. In the past, recognition procedures have focused on a comparison of curricula and certificate documents to determine the areas in which international care workers lack training compared to professionals trained in Germany. Consideration of the skills and benefits care workers bring with them, however, would demonstrate appreciation and also increase levels of acceptance amongst colleagues in the workplace.
Integration does not happen automatically
“Integration is not something that happens automatically,” says Noll. She explained that it is a process that has to be tackled strategically – otherwise, care workers will gravitate away from rural regions and small towns like Fulda towards larger cities, where they have easier access to an international community, or in the medium term even return to their home country. For recruiting hospitals and care homes, this is the worst case scenario. Staff recruitment and qualification recognition procedures are time-consuming and costly. It is therefore important that integration succeeds not least of all for economic reasons.
Combining professional content with language training
During the workshop with the Brazilian nurses at the University, professional content was combined with language training, and a special a focus was placed on Germanised versions of technical terminology and terms used colloquially on wards. The course content was tailored specifically to the group and, thanks to the lab situation, participants were able to demonstrate their skills and professional experience on such topics as wound care.
The extent to which the University will be able to play a role in integrating care workers in the region in the future is not yet clear. “Workplace integration requires know-how and human resources,” explains Noll. So there is the potential for stronger networking activities. So far, guidelines for an integration concept have been developed with project partners, guiding businesses through the process of preparing recruitment to evaluating and planning future staffing in the nursing sector.
The Department's degree programmes generally offer international students opportunities to train and gain further qualifications. Some 130 international students are currently enrolled in programmes such as Nursing, Physiotherapy, Health Promotion and Midwifery.