Introduction – The healthcare system in Spain enjoys a fairly good reputation within Europe and beyond. The same applies to education and specialist training of medical doctors. The country is considered by many health professionals as an attractive place to work. The sociable attitude of the people, reasonable working hours and the sunny weather in most regions contribute positively to the work-life balance. The country has also become a popular gateway to Europe for Spanish-speaking medical graduates from Latin America, who immigrate frequently to train as specialists. Recently though, the economic crisis has struck the country severely. The government has cut spending on healthcare and plans to partly privatise medical services. Health workers rallied against these policies in several “white tides”, gathering thousands of demonstrators in the streets of Madrid in late 2012 and early 2013.
How to become a doctor – Medical studies at Spanish universities are 6 years long, including a theoretical part and a clinical training of three years each. Access to public universities requires a competitive entry exam. Private medical schools are also available, but the cost can be significant. After university graduates have to take a dedicated national exam (“MIR test”) in order to be admitted to the residency with a hospital of up to 5 additional years; this is a prerequisite to work as a specialist doctor. After admission as a doctor by the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality there is generally compulsory registration with the competent local medical colleges (colegios provinciales).
Hurdles to take for foreigners – The Spanish healthcare system is decentralised into different autonomous communities. Hence local rules and administrative practices can vary a lot. Fluent Spanish language skills are normally indispensable. In coastal areas and on islands with tourists and foreign residents English and other foreign language skills may also be important or beneficial. It is therefore not surprising that the percentage of foreign doctors in Spain is highest on the Balearic Islands (over 15 %), with Mallorca being the biggest of them.
EEA/Swiss doctors with an EEA/Swiss qualification benefit from automatic recognition under EU Directive 2005/36/EC. Other foreign doctors normally require recognition as fully equivalent to the Spanish qualification or need to complete an exam (multi choice exam and oral exam on clinical cases). You are advised to turn to the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (Subdirección General de Títulos y Reconocimiento de Cualificaciones) in Madrid for more info.
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