Czechia facing dire lack of nurses in coming years
The Czech health sector is currently short of around 3,000 registered nurses. What makes things worse is that a third of the country’s nurses are now over the age of 60 and are due to retire within the next ten years. Hospital heads are ringing alarm bells and calling for action from the government.
Daria Hrabánková is head nurse of the internal medicine clinic at the Prague Faculty Hospital. Although the work of a head nurse is demanding, her biggest headache is planning the shifts for the week ahead. The lack of nurses is an ever-present concern.
“We are currently addressing the shortage of nurses by closing hospital beds. And I try to rotate nurses within the clinic wherever they are needed. I might send them from one ward to another, so as to temporarily saturate an urgent need there. If that can't be done, then there is no other option but to close beds".
As the population ages, the burden on the Czech health care system in the coming years will inevitably grow. Nurses will be needed in hospitals, but also in old age homes and specialized facilities for people with Alzheimer’s and other debilitating illnesses. Although the government has already moved to increase the salaries of medical staff so as to keep Czech doctors and nurses from leaving the country to work abroad, it faces another problem –that of replacing those who are due to retire.
The country presently has around 83,000 nurses and up to a third of the country’s registered nurses may retire within the next ten years. Even now a third of all nurses are over the age of 60 and 1,600 are over the age of 70.
Even if some of them decide to continue working, this would leave a huge gap in the system. Hospitals and clinics lack close to 3,000 registered nurses and those enrolling to study nursing are not enough by far to fill the vacancies. In reality the situation could be even worse because many nurses are now helping their departments by taking overtime hours.
The Ministry of Health therefore wants to focus on increasing the capacity of medical courses at universities and to pour more financing into the training of vocational nurses. According to Health Minister Vlastimil Válek the studies should be as flexible and accommodating as possible so as to attract more young people to the profession.
“We do not want to fall below European standards and we must maintain a high level of professionalism, but at the same time we want to make the studies as open, friendly and accommodating as possible."
The ministry will have to secure enough nurses with different specializations and even consider increasing the competences of licensed vocational nurses which would reflect the needs of hospitals, different medical facilities and old age homes.