The questions come on Facebook, on Instagram and above all in the 300-strong WhatsApp group, which is growing from month to month. What is it like to work as a nurse in Germany? What do I need to take the leap across the pond? And above all: How good does my German have to be?
Thaiza María Silva Farías can answer all of these questions from her Brazilian compatriots in her sleep, she is the pioneer, so to speak. The trained nurse from Rio de Janeiro came to Germany in October 2016.
A short time later she began to work in the operating room at the Darmstadt Clinic. And because she can see the lack of nursing care in German hospitals with her own eyes every day, she decided last year to use her own experience and set up an agency with the aim of guiding nursing staff from Brazil to Germany.
Silva Farías knows both sides. “I can help both Brazilian applicants professionally. On the other hand, I know exactly who is needed in the clinics in Germany,” she explains in an interview with DW.
More and more people in need of care in Germany
“Nursewelt” is the name of the agency, which definitely has the potential to become a success story. With her company, Silva Farías is filling a gap in the market that is getting bigger every year.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were just over two million people in need of care in Germany in December 1999; there are now five million people. By 2055, experts expect an increase to 6.8 million.
At the same time, the number of people who are supposed to take care of these people is getting smaller and smaller: last year, just 52,300 people in Germany began training to become nurses. This is 4,000 trainees or seven percent fewer than in 2021, according to the alarming figures from the Federal Statistical Office.
“You can choose your job”
Germany’s situation in nursing today means: There are three vacancies for every unemployed nursing specialist. Or as the Federal Employment Agency puts it: a “significant shortage of skilled workers among nursing staff”.
“You can choose your job here in Germany, you can see where you would like to work most. If you’re unemployed, it takes a day or two and then you already have a new job offer,” says Silva Farías.
In Brazil it is much more difficult to get a job. “The competition there is huge, with people who study for five years and sometimes have a master’s degree and even a doctorate, and still can’t get a job because there is so little work,” explains Silva Farías.
Who wins? who loses
Germany and Brazil therefore seem to be the perfect match when it comes to nursing staff, according to Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil. In June he flies to Brazil with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
The tour is part of a recruitment strategy that also extends to countries like Mexico and Indonesia. “We will proceed very sensitively so that we do not take away from any country the workers that it needs itself,” said Heil in an interview with the New Osnabrück newspaper.
The minister sees advantages on both sides: “We benefit, the countries of origin benefit, for example by getting involved in local training, and the people who come to us benefit from a well-paid job for themselves and maybe also from them Opportunity to provide financial support to family members back home.”
So a win-win situation for everyone involved? Patient advocates have their doubts that the German skilled workers gap can be solved from abroad. In 2022, just 656 foreign nurses were placed in Germany by the Federal Employment Agency, most of them from the Philippines.
“An internal German problem”
“The lack of nurses is first and foremost a domestic problem. The few additional hundred Brazilian nurses will not solve that,” said the board of directors of the Patient Protection Foundation, Eugen Brysch, the German Press Agency.
And what about countries of origin like Brazil or Mexico? Are there really only winners in the deal, or isn’t it rather the case that Germany, with the so-called brain drain, is taking qualified specialists away from Latin America, which these countries will need themselves in the future?
The Mexican surgeon Xavier Tello, one of the leading health experts in Latin America, takes a pragmatic view: “This brain drain is completely normal in a globalized world,” he told DW.
“If I have the best education and this is valued more abroad than at home, where working conditions are often poor and wages low, this step makes sense.”
More appreciation, more money
However, the topic is still practically invisible in the region. “But when people hear about it, the attitude is more like, ‘At least our nurses abroad get the appreciation they don’t get at home.'”
Thaiza Maria Silva Farías can list the reasons that prompt nurses in Latin America to try their luck in Germany. More quality of life. More safety. And six times as much money in your pocket with only one employer and not two or three hospitals as in Brazil.
But health expert Tello is not afraid that countries like Mexico could soon have to struggle with a shortage of nurses themselves. “The Mexicans are very attached to their homeland, emigrating to Germany with a new, difficult language would be a culture shock for them and is the very last option for them. Interestingly, it hasn’t been treated as a great career opportunity with a very good salary in this country either.”
pent-up demand for integration
For some of the nurses who pester Silva Farías with questions about Germany, Europe is only intended as a stage in their life planning. They plan to go back to their home country after a few years.
According to the Brazilian, if Labor Minister Hubertus Heil and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock want to attract more staff from Latin America, they should therefore heed the following:
“Hospitals need to be better prepared for their new employees. The staff often has no patience if people don’t speak German well yet. They should be given a year to master the language. Germany needs to integrate foreign nurses more .”