“This is not how i wanted to work”

They have a university education, but often remain without a job in their home country: Spanish nurses are supposed to make up for the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. But some of them are shocked by the state of German care.

German clinics and nursing homes are already courting Spanish nurses in their home country. While there are fewer and fewer jobs in the Spanish health system, in Germany 30.000 positions unfilled. The interest of Spaniards in working in Germany was initially enormous. In the meantime, however, some of them are turning their backs on Germany again – some even appalled at the quality of care.

Tatiana from Madrid could not reconcile the conditions under which she had to work at a German clinic with her professional ethics. "I did not want to work like this. That's not what I studied for," says the 22-year-old, who came to Germany fully trained. There was never time even for the most necessary care measures, she says, upset after her return.

Even the first day in the clinic was sobering. There was a lack of special beds for heavy patients to help prevent prere wounds. She had searched in vain for lifts that could move heavy patients. The result: patients were not moved at all, which led to ulcers. But the ulcers were ignored.

Save diapers

"We already know that," her boss replied when she pointed out a patient with such injuries, Tatiana recounts. But no treatment has been given, he said. "These are very complicated and painful wounds," underlines the Spanish nurse. During her training in Spain, she had been taught to recognize them early on. Tatiana exchanged views on this with Spanish nurses in other German hospitals: There, too, such wounds were simply ignored, she said.

Tatiana says she was admonished not to change too many diapers, even though it often left patients in their urine for a long time. She should save diapers, her supervisor had explained. Even in crisis-ridden Spain, with all its health care cuts, such a thing is unthinkable, she says.

In Internet forums, Spanish nurses discuss similar experiences at German hospitals – but under the protection of anonymity. The fear of losing one's job is too great. Tatiana also does not want to give her real name.

The workers' associations are not surprised by the experience of the Spaniard. The conditions described by Tatiana are not an exception, but everyday life, the trade union ver.di and the German Professional Association for Nursing Professions (DBfK) agree. The problems are systemic. The nursing professions lack a lobby in politics, says a DBfK spokeswoman.

Complaints do not bear fruit

Spain trains nurses at universities, but in Germany it is an apprenticeship profession. This has consequences for everyday working life. In her homeland, doctors are responsible for diagnosis, and they decide on treatment.

"We are trained to do everything else," she says, describing the job description in Spain, where nurses also perform medical tasks. That's why Tatiana can't understand the conditions in Germany: "The patient is without medicine for half an hour or more until the doctor finally arrives."

When she complained about the conditions at her clinic, she was given the choice of adapting or returning to Spain. Tatiana went back while still on probation and now works in a Spanish home for the elderly. "If I had stayed, I probably would have gotten sick," she says.

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