Healthcare constitutes a cornerstone of the Swedish welfare state and is the largest public sector. Public hospitals and health centres as the key providers for medical care are under the responsibility of the 18 county and 290 municipal councils. The private healthcare sector is still relatively small, but growing. Currently more than 30 000 doctors practice medicine in Sweden. The phenomenon of shortage of medical specialists is widespread, particularly in fields such as anaesthesiology, geriatrics, radiology, family medicine or psychiatry. Foreign doctors are welcome to fill the gap. The country is considered a popular destination by many of them. Doctors have been immigrating in particular from Denmark, Finland, Germany and Poland. Growing influx from South Europe is likely. Whereas general terms of employment are often governed by collective agreements, salaries are subject to individual negotiation.
How to become a doctor
Undergraduate medical education at one of the six medical faculties takes five and a half years and is completed with the Medical Degree (Läkarexamen). Hereafter a preregistration training programme called ”allmäntjänstgöring (AT)” of at least 18 months needs to be successfully completed in order to obtain a registration licence (Läkarlegitimation) to be allowed to practice as a doctor. Doctors with a full registration may apply for residency (Specialisttjänstgöring – ST) in one of the recognized medical specialties, currently 57. Specialty training is paid, lasts for at least five years and is concluded with a final examination.
Hurdles to take for foreigners
Foreign doctors need to have sufficient knowledge of the Swedish language. Membership with the Swedish Medical Association ”SMA” (Sveriges läkarförbund) is recommended. The recognition of foreign medical qualifications is administered by the National Board of Health and Welfare “NBHW” (Socialstyrelsen). The NBHW grants the required medical licence (Läkarlegitimation). The application is free of charge. The NBHW also issues certificates of specialist qualifications.
Doctors with a qualification from another EEA Member State benefit from automatic recognition under EU Directive 2005/36/EC. The respective doctor’s application must include an up-to-date certificate of good standing issued by the competent authority in the doctor’s home country. According to the SMA it usually takes 2-3 weeks to get the licence or specialist qualifications approved by the NBHW.
Doctors with non-EEA qualifications have to complete complementary training in order to obtain the medical licence; the NBHW conducts a case-by-case assessment to determine the applicant’s medical competence. As long as no medical licence is in place, a temporary appointment as a doctor by the NBHW together with a temporary work permit from the Migration Board may be provided.
Immigration laws also need to be respected. A residence permit is required, for EEA citizens however only if they wish to stay longer than three months. For non-EEA citizens a work permit is also necessary. Applications are submitted to the Swedish Embassy or Consulate in the doctor’s home country or the local police immigration department, and are handled by the Migration Board. Following reception of the residence permit a registration as a resident should be made with the local tax office.
Doctors may apply for work directly with hospitals or engage a recruitment agency. It is frequent to contact the employer before submitting a job application. Job ads may be found in the Swedish Medical Journal (Läkartidningen) or from the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).
Last update 9 August 2014