Hospitals in Flanders are facing an acute shortage of nursing staff, according to a survey carried out by health-care organisation Zorgnet-Icuro reported by De Morgen at the weekend. This academic year, 7,300 students have enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in nursing, compared to 9,751 two years ago, despite the fact that the job is considered a priority profession. At present 1,488 vacancies stand open, and the situation is on the road to becoming worse as working nurses retire without being replaced.
The situation will be aggravated next summer, when no new graduates appear on the jobs market, as those who would normally have graduated now have to study one year longer to get their degree – a change that came in 2016.
According to one expert, the interest in the profession among school-leavers is still strong, but there is a shortage of people entering the profession after having worked in another job – the so-called side stream. Economic growth, Lon Holtzer explained, meant unemployment was lower, leading to fewer people considering an alternative career in nursing.
That has led the Flemish government to offer an incentive to anyone considering a second career in health care. “These people can receive a grant in their first year of training,” Holtzer said, “From the second year on they are qualified, and can work part-time, while their working hours count towards the practical requirements of the degree.”