In 2013, Greek-trained nurse Ana Poli decided to seek a new professional career in Germany. To begin with, she was only able to work as a non-recognised nursing assistant. Now, however, her qualification has been officially recognised and she is employed as a fully qualified nurse in a leading university hospital.
When nurse Ana Poli became unemployed in Greece in 2013 and began to learn German at the Goethe Institute, she decided to take her future into her own hands. Having achieved language level A2, she jumped in at the deep end by sending a spontaneous application from Greece to a temporary employment agency in Germany. And the plan succeeded. The company gave her the opportunity to continue her language learning and placed her with the Bonn University Clinic.
However, the new start in Germany proved not to be quite so easy after all. Ana Poli had assumed that she would receive “the same salary and the same continuing training opportunities as German nursing staff” because she had switched jobs within the European Union. Then came the first disappointment. Ana, who is now 32, was only permitted to work as a non-recognised nursing assistant because she did not have official recognition for her professional qualification. In Greece, she had completed a four-year course of study and had been employed at the highest level in the nursing sector. “In Germany, I had to work together with my mentor or other colleagues at all times,” she said. “Without recognition I was not allowed to care for patients on my own.”
The temporary employment agency Randstad helped her to launch a recognition process. The company arranged for her certificates to be translated and sent them complete with the other application documentation to the State Examination Office for Medicine, Pharmacy and Psychotherapy in Düsseldorf. Automatic recognition was then able to take place in accordance with the EU Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. Before Ana was permitted to use the professional title of registered general nurse, the local Public Health Department in North-Rhine Westphalia checked her knowledge of spoken and written German. This is one of the prerequisites for the exercising of the profession. “Because my knowledge of German was not yet good enough, it took me eight months before I felt sufficiently confident to take the test at the Department,” she said.
She also had to obtain a “Certificate of Good Standing” (COG) from the relevant Medical Council in Greece, because such a document must not be older than three months. In issuing the COG, the Greek authorities confirm to the German authorities that Ana Poli is able to exercise her profession in Greece in the normal manner and that there are not, for example, any outstanding criminal proceedings against her. Finally, once a doctor’s certificate to confirm that there were no health reasons why she should not be deployed as a registered general nurse had also been obtained, the Public Health Department in Siegburg was able to issue a certificate of entitlement to practise. “Fear of the unknown was the greatest challenge to me rather than all the paperwork involved,” Ana Poli continued. “You are in a foreign country and don’t really know how the people tick.”
However, Ana’s natural and open manner ultimately also enabled her to overcome this hurdle. “Nurses in Germany do everything from preparing medication to providing personal care.” In Greece, the level of her qualification tended to mean that she was in charge of administrative matters. But she does not view her present area of activity as worse: “It’s just a little bit different.” Ana’s aim now is to “live more like a normal married couple” with her husband, who has also just successfully completed the recognition process in the profession of registered general nurse. She would also like to travel more and go out with German friends. “Recognition has simply brought us a better quality of life”, states a delighted Ana Poli.
Photograph: © Portal “Recognition in Germany“/BIBB
The interview with Ana Poli was conducted in July 2015. Although the temporary employment agency provided Ana Poli with valuable assistance, the procedure is, of course, perfectly feasible without such a representative. Such support does not affect the chances of success or the duration of the process.
Esther Wamala-Bollig moved to Germany with her husband in 2011. Trained in Jinja, Uganda as a nurse and midwife, she received full recognition as a registered general nurse after one and a half years.