Nurses receive training in Shandong province before they begin working abroad. [Photo by Ju Chuanjiang/China Daily]
After working for more than a year in Germany, Chinese nurses have been widely acclaimed for their job performance, although they had to overcome difficulties in language and cultural differences, said a spokesman for the program.
Marcel Schmutzler, a press officer with the German Federal Employment Agency’s International Placement Services Department, told China Daily that statistics show Chinese nurses received positive feedback from their employers.
“They’ve shown their high professionalism and ability in interaction with patients in their care,” said Schmutzler.
“The Chinese nurses have also shown their high ability to empathize with old people,” he said, noting the phenomenon may be part of their culture, one that highly respects old people.
According to an agreement signed by China and Germany at the end of 2012, some 150 Chinese nurses began to work in the European country in 2013, with the first 25 arriving last October.
In Germany, the problem of finding professionals to care the elderly has become more and more serious.
According to the German Federal Employment Agency, by September 2013 there were 597,016 people working as nurses, first-aid personnel and midwives, and 470,301 healthcare workers in nursing homes in Germany.
But demand for qualified nurses remains large. By May 2014, there were at least 9,179 vacancies for nurses, first-aid personnel and midwives in Germany. There were at least 8,990 vacancies for healthcare workers in nursing homes.
The demand may be even larger because “in Germany, employers are not obliged to announce their vacancies to the Federal Employment Agency”, said Schmutzler.
And the industry is booming. According to a study by the RWI Economic Research Institute on behalf of private care providers, 29 billion euros ($36.6 billion) was invested in nursing homes and services between 1999 and 2009.
At the same time 160,000 jobs were created in the sector, 90,000 of them for nurses.
To meet the high demand, Germany turned to foreign nurses decades ago. South Korean nurses were recruited as far back as the 1960s.
According to the statistics for the past 10 years, most of the foreign nurses are from Poland and Romania, said Franz Wagner, chief executive officer of the German Nurses Association.
Although the number of Asian nurses has not risen significantly in the past year, Wagner said Asia has become appealing to German employers because of its huge population－China and India in particular.
He said German employers have also found it difficult to find nurses in Europe who want to work in Germany because working conditions are not competitive when compared to Scandinavian countries, Britain or the United States.
“In those countries, nurses find better conditions such as a lower workload, better recognition and image, less overtime and better salaries,” Wagner said. “In addition, German is a difficult language to learn.”
But Wang Zhuwen, director of operations at the Shandong International Nurse Training Center－which is responsible for training the 150 Chinese nurses who will work in Germany from this year－stressed “most overseas Chinese nurses earn more than they do in China”.
“In Germany, the starting salary for nurses in public hospitals ranges from 2,190 to 2,365 euros a month.”
Compared with the average monthly salary of about 3,320 yuan ($540) for a nurse in China, working overseas represents a good deal.
But to work in a foreign country with a foreign language is not an easy thing. Wagner said there are cultural differences and differences between the roles of nurses from country to country.
“A nurse from Europe probably finds it easier to adjust than somebody from Asia or Africa,” he said.
Yet Schmutzler noted the German spoken by Chinese nurses can be understood when they speak slowly.
Among them is 25-year-old Xie Yanxi, who took an eight-month German-language course at the International Nurse Training Center run by Weihai International Economic and Technological Cooperative Co.
Like her peers, she had to pass the German B1 level examination before applying for her visa.