There are many reasons for choosing to spend a short or long period abroad during your career. Some doctors and nurses have wanted to travel for years, some have accumulated holiday leave and want to earn extra money, and others want to make use of the opportunity to improve their qualifications abroad.
By working in another country, you experience new exciting routines in a new country, where you become part of a different culture and undergo personal development. At the same time, you develop your professional skills and meet new challenges. You also get new perspectives on the healthcare system.
There are many opportunities to work in the healthcare area in the Nordic countries, and there are exciting career options for people qualified as a healthcare professional and looking for new challenges in Sweden. You can boost your career through knowledge and experience in Swedish institutions and experiencing a new healthcare system.
Some people travel alone, while others take their family with them. Some travel for a short period, some travel many times, and others move for a longer period or even permanently to another country. The length of time you plan to stay in Sweden is significant for how you should prepare so, before you pack your bags, good planning is necessary.
Authorisation as a doctor or nurse in Sweden
For a number of professions you need a Swedish authorisation before you can work in Sweden. The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) issues Swedish authorisations and specialist certificates. For example, you must apply for authorisation if you want to work as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, midwife, dietician, physiotherapist, chiropractor, speech therapist, optician, dentist, or psychologist.
As a qualified nurse or doctor, you are authorised to work in your home country. When you want to work abroad, you must apply for authorisation in the country in which you want to work.
If you are a citizen of a EU/EEA country and trained as a doctor or a nurse in a EU/EEA country, and want to work within your profession in Sweden, the EU Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications within the regulated professions applies, and you are therefore entitled to become authorised in Sweden.
The EU Directive means that, if you have an approved authorisation from a EU/EEA country, you are entitled to work as a doctor or nurse in Sweden. However, you must apply for Swedish authorisation. Doctor and nurse are protected titles, and you may only work as and call yourself a doctor or nurse in Sweden if you have a Swedish authorisation.
If you have completed specialist training in another EU/EEA country, you may work as a specialist in Sweden, on condition that the specialist area is named in the EU Directive and exists in Sweden.
In order to obtain Swedish authorisation, you must apply for authorisation from the National Board of Health and Welfare and show that you have the right professional qualifications and the necessary language competencies in Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian. This also applies if you are a citizen of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, or Norway.
In order to obtain an authorisation under the provisions of the EU Directive, you must:
- be a citizen of a Nordic country or a EU/EEA country
- have a qualification as a doctor or nurse from a Nordic country or a EU/EEA country
- complete the application form and submit it electronically
- pay a fee
- send documentation proving your identity, your birth details, your education, your professional experience, and your professional status to the National Board of Health and Welfare
- send the copies of your documentation that the National Board of Health and Welfare requires
- send any supplementary documentation that the National Board of Health and Welfare requests.
You must satisfy all documentation requirements, including form requirements. The National Board of Health and Welfare will not start to process your application until it has received all your documents.
When you have an authorisation, the National Board of Health and Welfare exercises supervision over your professional work. If you are a risk to patient safety, your area of work may be restricted or you may lose your authorisation.
You can find a list of all the professions in the Swedish healthcare sector that require Swedish authorisation on the website of the National Board of Health and Welfare. On the Your Europe website, you can find information about how to apply for authorisation and which specialist qualifications are recognised in the EU countries.
If you have a qualification from a country outside the EU/EEA, you can find practical information about how to apply for authorisation in Sweden on the website of the National Board of Health and Welfare.
Period of introduction (basic residential training) for doctors in Sweden
On 1 July 2021, basic residential training (bastjänstgöring, BT) was introduced in Sweden. BT takes place after authorisation, and is a period of introduction within the framework of specialist training (specialiseringstjänstgöring, ST). The new medical educational programmes involve a licence to practice directly after graduation, so medical internship (allmänstjänstgöring, AT) will be phased out. BT also applies to you if your medical qualification is from another country.
European Professional Card for nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists
If you are a nurse, pharmacist, or physiotherapist, and you want to apply for recognition of your professional qualifications, you can do so using the European Professional Card, EPC. The European Professional Card is an electronic procedure that enables recognition of your regulated profession in other EU countries.
This is simpler and faster to administer than traditional recognition of qualifications, and you can follow your application online. You can also use documents that you have already uploaded for new applications in other countries.
You can use the EPC procedure if you want to practice your profession in another EU country temporarily and occasionally, or if you want to move to another EU country and practice your profession permanently in the country.
Look for a job as a doctor or nurse in Sweden
In Sweden, nurses can work at many different workplaces within regional health authorities, municipalities, or private practices. Examples are hospitals, healthcare centres, and in-home healthcare, elderly care, or disability care services.
Doctors in Sweden are employed in regional health authorities or private practices with which regional health authorities collaborate. There are also doctors who work in research and teaching, or have their own practices.
You can find information about vacant positions and workplaces in Sweden on the websites of municipalities and regional health authorities, and the Public Employment Office. You can also search on “Offentliga jobb” (Public Sector Jobs) or contact employers directly.
Employment types in Sweden
You should decide what employment position you want to apply for in Sweden. Your salary and conditions of employment vary depending on where you are employed. You can be employed directly at a workplace in Sweden or through a recrutiment agency.
If you are planning to work in Sweden for a short period, it may be simpler to go through a temporary employment agency or a recruitment agency There are many different Swedish and foreign agencies.
You can get a position through a temporary employment agency in your home country that posts you to a workplace in Sweden. You are then employed and paid salary according to the conditions in your home country, and can be a member of a trade union in your home country. You should investigate whether the agency pays for your travel, travel time, posting fee, and insurance.
If you go through a recruitment agency, you are recruited to a position at a workplace or to a Swedish temporary employment agency that sends you to a workplace in Sweden. You are employed and paid salary according to Swedish regulations, and should apply to join a Swedish trade union.
However, if you are going to work for a long period in Sweden, you can find a place of work yourself and get a direct contract. You are then covered by the collective bargaining agreement that applies for nurses or doctors at the workplace, and you are ensured proper working conditions.
You can get information about salaries and working conditions from the trade unions for doctors and nurses in Sweden.
It is always important that you find out about the conditions and agreements before you sign a contract. Think the job offer through carefully before you make your decision. You do not need to give an answer immediately. You can contact your trade union for information about the agencies and your contract.
Salaries for nurses and doctors in Sweden
In Sweden, doctors and nurses are paid according to individual salary systems. This means that you negotiate your salary for the appointment.
When you negotiate your salary with your future employer in Sweden, you reach an agreement on your salary level, and you can generally be credited for your work experience. Your employer in Sweden may ask for documentation about your earlier positions.
Before you accept the employment conditions, you should reach an agreement with your new employer about salary, pension, holidays, holiday supplement, working hours, overtime pay, etc. You have a special opportunity to influence your salary when you are being recruited and when you change job, so make demands and turn down the job and look elsewhere if you are not satisfied.
As salaries are individual and differentiated, salaries vary between you and your colleagues in accordance with individual merits and skills.
The employer must defend and motivate the salary criteria, i.e. how performance, work input, results, and target attainment influence your salary. The employer must also have a plan for salary development, where competencies, specialist knowledge, results, and contribution to the institution must be encouraged and rewarded.
You can find information about salaries, salary statistics, salary development, salary agreements, and tips about how to handle salary discussions and negotiations on the websites of the nurses’ trade union, the Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet), and the doctors’ trade union, Sveriges läkarförbund.
Unemployment insurance funds in Sweden
Before you travel to Sweden, you should contact your unemployment insurance fund (a-kassa) to make sure you are registered and correctly covered when you work in Sweden.
You are normally covered by unemployment insurance in the country in which you work.
Trade unions/associations in Sweden
If you want to join a trade union, you must apply to a trade union for nurses or doctors in Sweden. When you become a member, you can get advice and guidance about the actual employment position, the applicable agreements and conditions, and get help if and when you need it.
You can contact your trade union in your home country and inform them that you are travelling to Sweden to work as a doctor or a nurse. You could also check if you can have passive membership with reduced fee while you are in Sweden.
The medical associations in the Nordic countries have a common agreement that, if you are a member of one of the Nordic countries’ medical associations, you can receive free service and legal help from a country’s medical association for a period of up to six months while you are working in the country. This means you do not need to be a member of the Swedish medical association if you are working in Sweden for less than six months.
If you are planning to work in Sweden for longer than six months, you should apply to join the Swedish medical association. You can contact them for information about what legal services they can help you with.
The Nordic nursing organisations have also entered into a collaboration that ensures good conditions and advice on matters such as salary, working conditions, patient law, and occupational injury.
Private insurance in Sweden
Your private insurance company can explain your position in relation to work and residence in Sweden.
Medical liability insurance in Sweden
When you live or work abroad, you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover.
If you are going to work in Sweden, you should check whether your employer provides insurance cover or whether you should take out your own insurance. Before you start work, you should investigate the regulations regarding medical liability insurance and how the patient insurance system works in your situation.
As an employed doctor, you are insured during working time through your employer. Contact your medical association about medical liability insurance that provides you with cover outside working time, and to find out whether you are obliged to take out other insurance cover in your situation.
Employer insurance in Sweden
If, for example, you injure a patient you are generally covered through your employer. There can be situations where you are not covered, so you should always check what your employer covers before you travel to Sweden to work.
Occupational injury insurance in Sweden
If you are employed by an employer in your home country through a temporary employment agency for a limited period, you will generally be covered by an occupational injury scheme in your home country. This type of scheme provides insurance cover if you are injured through work.
If you are employed directly by a Swedish employer, in most situations you are covered by a Swedish occupational injury scheme. These schemes can vary from country to country, so you should check what applies and what it covers.
If you are injured, you should contact a doctor as quickly as possible, so you can document later that you have suffered an occupational injury.
Illness in Sweden
You should examine the terms and conditions in the agreement concerning illness.
Many agreements for hourly paid temporary appointments state that the temporary position ceases in the event of illness. You can negotiate with your employer about including entitlement to sick pay in your contract. It is the provisions in the contract that you sign that apply.
Registration in the Swedish Population Register
If you are in Sweden for less than 12 months, there is generally no need to change your registration in a population register. However, you should check with the population register in your home country, as there may be special conditions you must consider.
If you are going to work in Sweden for one year or longer, you must register in the Swedish Population Register.
Residence and work permits in Sweden
If you are a Nordic citizen and are planning to work in Sweden, you are not required to apply for a residence and work permit.
If you are a citizen of another EU/EEA country and are planning to work in Sweden, you have the right of residence in Sweden.
If you come from a country outside the EU/EEA, you must apply for a residence and work permit in Sweden.
Bank account in Sweden
In order for your employer to pay your salary, you must open a bank account in Sweden.
Housing in Sweden
Finding housing can be difficult in some large towns and cities in Sweden, but you can contact the municipality to see what opportunities there are for renting a property.
You can also ask your forthcoming employer about whether they can help you to find accommodation.
Social insurance in Sweden
You should always check which country is responsible for your social insurance, sickness insurance, family supplement, or pension when you move to or work in Sweden.
Pension in Sweden
When you work in Sweden, you earn a pension in Sweden, But the regulations on saving toward a pension vary in the Nordic countries. You should therefore contact your pension company or the pensions agency in your home country and the Swedish Pensions Agency (Pensionsmyndigheten) to find out about your own pension situation.
It is also a good idea to ask your employer in Sweden about the pension payments they make on your behalf.
Tax in Sweden
You can find information about tax in Sweden on the website of the Swedish Tax Agency. You can ask questions about tax between the Nordic countries on the common portal of the Nordic tax agencies, Nordisk eTax.
Language requirements at the workplace in Sweden
The National Board of Health and Welfare regards the three Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, as equivalent when you apply for Swedish authorisation.
You should ask your future employer if they also do this or whether they have any language requirements. The minimum requirement is that you must be able to communicate with people you work with and for, so you must be able to understand Swedish and make yourself understood to Swedes.
Cultural differences - understanding Swedes at your workplace
There are differences between the Nordic countries in terms of work culture and management, and leisure time.
When you work in another country, it is important that you consider how you can respect cultural differences and tackle your experiences, both at the workplace and in your leisure time. Feeling comfortable in the workplace requires more than your education, the language, and professional experience.
Cultural differences can create different organisational cultures. Both managers and employees can experience surprising situations, even if we in the Nordic countries have much in common.
There are differences in what we are proud of and whether we perceive each other as superficial and a bit over-enthusiastic, or quieter and reflective. You may find that your Swedish colleagues accept authority to a greater or lesser degree than in your home country.
In Sweden, it is important that you arrive on time, enjoy meetings, and take part in coffee breaks (fika) with colleagues at the workplace.
Equality is also important for Swedes. It is normal for Swedish fathers to take parental leave. Parents can divide up 480 days of paid parental leave between themselves.
Swedes are informal in both manners and clothing style. Colleagues often get together for ‘after works’.
The Swedes’ self-perception is that they are “about right” (lagom). Swedes are enthusiastic followers of the European Song Contest, ice hockey, feminism, nature, and food programmes on TV. They prefer you to remove shoes when you enter a home, they buy their alcohol at Systembolaget, drink good-quality water direct from the tap, and pay a fee when they visit a doctor.
They have a strict queueing culture, and become frustrated if you do not respect this or do not understand that you should stand to the right on escalators in the metro station. However, they will not tell you this.
Returning home from Sweden
You must check what applies in terms of unemployment insurance fund, social insurance and tax when you are planning to return home after working in Sweden.
It is a good idea to get a certificate of employment from your period of work in Sweden. If you are a member of a trade union, you should contact them.
Please fill in our contact form if you have any questions or if you have encountered an obstacle in another Nordic country.
NB! If you have questions regarding the processing of a specific case or application, or other personal matters, please contact the relevant authority directly.