Erika, a GP From Hungary Working in Sweden

GP working in Sweden
Erika is a family medicine specialist from Hungary. In January 2018 she moved to Vetlanda, Sweden with her husband and three children after she was offered a position at the local primary care centre.  

Why Sweden

“I was interested in finding a job abroad because during the time I spent in the Hungarian healthcare I realized the problems there won’t change. The competence of family medicine specialists is more limited and they are not allowed to do much. They just see patients and send them to other specialists for further evaluation and therapy. If you suspect a patient has cardiological issues, you refer them to a cardiologist. In Sweden, a family medicine specialist’s work includes tasks that require a deeper knowledge of diagnostics and treatment of health problem. This means people with common diseases, including mental disorders, have been in medical contact solely with general practitioners, who are expected to close down the treatment and only refer patients to other specialist doctors when it’s absolutely needed. Even though it’s challenging I really enjoy it.” At general medicine clinics in Sweden, there is usually equipment for minor surgeries and various types of examinations, which are in many other countries carried out in hospitals or specialist clinics. General medicine specialists do not refer patients to other specialists for health problems such as diabetes, asthma, depression, arrhythmia or small injuries.

Credits: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

The Process With MediCarrera

Erika was referred to MediCarrera by her best friend, who went through the process and works as a GP in Mullsjö, Jönköping. “My university friend Anita had applied to MediCarrera, so we started to talk about her experience and how it is to be a GP in Scandinavia. I started understanding what the benefits were so I decided to apply for a job in Sweden. Everything went really quickly. I got in touch with MediCarrera in May 2017 and by July we already did a three-day study tour in Sweden. It was very challenging, I had to show how I would treat patients in different scenarios. The employer paid a lot of attention to my communication style and how I would handle the patients. After the study tour, I got the news that I got the job and I was very happy.”  

The Language Course

While she did not have much time to complete the online language course, Erika didn’t feel the information overload despite the time pressure. She only had to focus on one thing at a time and that was a great way to learn. “In September we started the language course. During the first two weeks, there was some side communication in English which was really helpful because we could get a better introduction. After the third week, it was absolutely obligatory to speak Swedish. All the other participants were on the same level, so I felt comfortable speaking to them. It was really intense but I believe that was absolutely necessary to reach the language level required for the relocation. During the Christmas holidays, I got worried because we did not have a lot of chance to practise our new language. I basically jumped right into work when we arrived to Sweden. However, everyone was very helpful and supportive. I felt quite confident about my Swedish and got positive feedback.”
“In Sweden general medicine specialists are expected to close down the treatment and only refer patients to other specialist doctors when it’s absolutely needed.”

Family Inclusion and Life in Sweden

During the language course, MediCarrera let the grandparents join the family in the training centre because Erika’s daughter was still too young for kindergarten. “While my husband, two other children and I were learning the language, the grandparents took care of our baby. This made me feel calm and gave me the ability to focus on the language. The fact that a background solution was given was very important to me. My 13-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son were studying together with my husband and they managed to get the B1 level. It was really useful that we were all learning it together because we could practise after the course as well. This made us all equally ready to start a new life in Sweden.” In Vetlanda, children first go to a preparatory school, where they map their school backgrounds and knowledge. They stay there for 4-8 weeks and then join preschools and schools in the municipality. While Erika’s daughter will complete the entire 8 weeks, her son already started going to high school. “Right now, my husband stays at home with our baby, as we’re waiting for a spot in the kindergarten. It is a challenge for him but he is doing great. We are not stressing about anything because there will certainly be options for him as well. The main focus is my integration at work.”

The Difference Between Sweden and Hungary

The language course was not exclusively focused on the language but on the cultural differences as well. The habits, customs and the way people in Sweden behave were discussed. “This made it easier for us when we arrived to Sweden because we did not experience a shock. When I arrived, I could really pick up on the things we learned in class, which was comforting. The main difference between Sweden and Hungary is the way people interact. The Swedish citizens are way calmer and much less frustrated than they are in Hungary. They are a lot kinder and speak more respectfully to each other on the streets. They joke around even at work so I felt at ease and stopped identifying myself as a foreigner. I also like the fact that the expectations in Sweden were not extremely high, the patients just accepted me and the way I examine. On the contrary, in Hungary, I sometimes felt a lot of pressure because of patients asking for certain medications. In Sweden, people are much more by the book. They are organized and follow the rules. Between patients, I often have time to read about the regulations which makes me feel more confident.”  

Erika’s Advice

The whole process of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture is not easy at all. But for Erika, it was worth it.

“I feel much more secure than I used to in Hungary. I have a more stable situation in Sweden. I will of course never forget my Hungarian roots, family, friends and colleagues but I feel this was the right choice to make. Besides the lifestyle, it is also a great opportunity for a GP to improve as a professional. I would recommend this change to my colleagues who want to improve and learn more. The training is really important and the GPs in Sweden are very much appreciated. It is important to adapt to a new system. If you are not flexible, it’s not the best choice. However, if you are determined to make it work, do not hesitate. Just be patient and persistent!”
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