Norway – Doctors

Norway fjord 28 July 2013

State of play

In Norway with its just over 5 million inhabitants some 18,000 physicians are presently practising medicine. Although not being an EU Member State and hence neither part of the Euro zone, the Scandinavian country applies central pieces of Union legislation – such as Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications – through its membership in the European Economic Area. Norway has been strongly reliant on foreign medical professionals for many years due to a structural shortage of doctors outside the few metropolitan areas, and whereas recent centralisation trends in the healthcare sector led to closures of some smaller hospitals, the need for doctors remains high due to demographic changes and medical innovations. Main pull factors for foreign physicians eager to move to Norway include: Attractive working conditions such as reasonable working hours, fairly good pay (but consider relatively higher costs and taxes also) and flat hierarchies; the beauty of the country’s nature with its fjords, mountains, northern lights, etc.; functioning infrastructures.

How to become a doctor in Norway

Undergraduate medical education at Norwegian faculties is six years long. Following university there is an 18-month supervised residency with a hospital (one year) and in primary health care (six months), as a prerequisite to obtain a full medical licence (or licentia practicandi). To qualify in one of the 44 recognized medical specialties, candidates then need to complete graduate medical education, which takes five to six years at the minimum. Specialist approval is required for appointment to a senior medical post.

Authorisation (providing full and permanent approval) and licences (limited approval) required for practising a regulated health care profession such as Medical Practitioner are granted by the Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel (SAK) and lead to the inclusion in the national Health Personnel Register (Helsepersonellregisteret) kept by SAK. Ca. 97 % of all physicians in Norway are members of the Norwegian Medical Association (NMA), the professional associations and trade union for its members.

Hurdles to take for foreign doctors

Good Norwegian language skills – proven e.g. by the “Bergenstesten” or equivalent level – are normally indispensable for working as doctor in Norway. EEA/Swiss doctors with an EEA/Swiss qualification benefit from automatic recognition under EU Directive 2005/36/EC; applications are to be submitted to SAK for approval. For other foreign doctors SAK is assessing equivalence of the professional qualifications based on documentary evidence provided and additionally courses in Norwegian national subjects and clinical practice need to be completed, as well as a medical qualifying exam (OSCE test) in some instances.

Where to get further info / support