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Many different career paths

Nurses have a wide range of jobs and career paths to choose from. Regardless of the location and job description, nurses need lifelong learning and continuing education to be able to work in a changing healthcare environment.

The nurse has many different options

Nurses’ skills play a key role in the holistic management of patients’ health and illness, in providing guidance, preventing illness, and guiding those close to them.

In addition to clinical work, people with a nursing background are needed for a variety of tasks related to nursing and healthcare in one way or another. There are many different career opportunities after graduation.

The work of a nurse is governed by the Act on Health Care Professionals.

Legislation in English
Act on Health Care Professionals (559/1994) (Finlex)
Decree on Health Care Professionals (564/1994) (Finlex)

According to the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) (Finlex) , the public authorities shall guarantee for everyone adequate social, health and medical services and promote the health of the population.

With the term nurse we refer to registered nurse (RN), who has the required education, licensing, and registration by Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health. Also public health nurses, midwives and paramedics (UAS) are registered nurses in Finland.

Varied opportunities

Nurses work in direct clinical patient care in a wide variety of social and health care settings, including specialist care in various specialties, primary health care, national defense, prisons, home care, school health, the public and private sectors and organizations, to name a few.

In addition to clinical work, people with a nursing background work in a wide range of other roles. Nurses’ education and work experience provide a good basis for further education and training in a variety of roles, such as management, education, development, research, administration, evaluation, and supervision.

Nurses are also needed at various levels as social and political decision-makers. Nurses’ education and work experience provide unique and valuable insight, knowledge, and experience.

Nursing education and training also equips nurses for a variety of international assignments. The standard of nursing education in Finland is high and it is greatly respected around the world.

It is important for nurses to be in positions where they can contribute to the development of their expertise, education, social status, and patient care.

Wider and deeper knowledge through training

Skills can be maintained and enhanced through a range of trainings, including seminars and congresses, specialization or other further training or Master’s degrees at a university or a University of Applied Sciences (UAS), or even Doctoral degrees at universities.

The law obliges both the employer and the employee to ensure that skills are maintained through adequate and continuing training. The Finnish Nurses Association recommends at least six days of continuing education per year.

It is worth noting that no amount of further training or in-service training in itself guarantees a new job description.  

Various training bodies

A workplace may have its own in-service training and career path models.

Different continuing professional development options can range from one-day seminars to longer sessions and can be organized by a wide range of organizations, from associations to commercial operators and educational organizations.

Specialization studies

Specialization studies are part of the national education system, regulated by laws and regulations. Specialization training is funded by the state. Higher education institutions (universities and UASs) can provide specialization training free of charge or they can charge up to €120 per credit point.

Specialization programs are for those who have completed a degree and have already entered working life. They aim to boost expertise and competence by means of providing education based on the research and development competencies and focus areas of the higher education institutions. Only studies for which the study requirements have been agreed upon in inter-university cooperation or inter-UAS cooperation can be provided as professional specialization programs.

The selection criteria for students are set by the higher education institutions. Specialization training does not lead to a degree. In Finland, specialized nurses are not registered or regulated.

The website maintains a list of ongoing specialization training courses at UASs (only in Finnish).

The expertise of a specialist nurse is based on the integration of theoretical knowledge produced by specialist training and work experience. The work emphasizes strong clinical expertise in a specialty, good patient education readiness, a developmental approach to work and keeping up-to-date with the nurse’s own field. A specialist nurse may provide nurse appointments. They have good understanding of the operating unit and are committed to deepening their own expertise and disseminating information within their own unit.

In addition to specialization studies, universities and UASs organize degree modules as open university/UAS education or as other non-degree studies. These have no basic training requirements, but are open to anyone who is interested.

Post-graduate degrees

Master’s degrees can be taken after a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent studies.

As Finland has a dual higher education structure, Master’s degrees are offered both in Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) and universities. In addition, universities offer academic postgraduate degrees (licentiate and doctor degrees) in nursing.

Universities emphasize scientific research and teaching based on the research. UASs offer practical training that is geared to the needs of working life. The main focus of research, development and innovation in a UAS is on applied research and development.

In the past, career progression through post-graduate degrees has often meant moving away from direct clinical care, but since the early 2000s, nurses have increasingly been offered a variety of clinical career paths, including those that require a minimum of Master’s level degrees. Nursing is now more often an independent specialist role, requiring nurses to develop their clinical knowledge.

Further information about clinical career paths:

The roles of CNS or NP are not regulated in Finland. However, the nurse’s limited right to prescribe is regulated.

Universities of Applied Sciences Master’s degree education

At a University of Applied Sciences (UAS), you can complete a Master’s degree. The degree program is 90 ECTS credits. There is a wide range of programs on offer, from clinical expertise in different fields to management, development and digital skills.

The degree allows you to deepen your professional skills after gaining work experience. It teaches you how to acquire and process research knowledge in your field and apply it to your work. It prepares you for, among other things, development and expert tasks in working life. The Master’s degrees awarded by a UAS are equivalent to Master’s degrees conferred by a university.

To be eligible for a UAS Master’s degree, candidates must have three years’ professional experience after completing their nursing degree.

Check the list of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences at Study in Finland.

University degrees

Students can complete Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and academic, artistic and third-cycle postgraduate degrees in a university. Master’s degrees are taken after a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent studies.

There are five universities in Finland where you can major in nursing science. These are the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Oulu, the University of Tampere, the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi. The degree programs can be in areas such as nursing management, preventive nursing, health science teacher training, clinical expertise or health management science.

In addition to degree courses, universities can also provide professional specialization programmes, degree modules as open university education or as other non-degree studies, and continuing professional education.

Check the list of Finnish Universities at Study in Finland.

Nurses’ limited right to prescribe medication

Nurses’ limited right to prescribe medication was enshrined in Finnish law in 2010 and the first nurses with this right graduated in 2012. The training leading to the right is 45 ECTS credits. The education is on the same Finnish National Framework for Qualifications (FiNQF) level 7 as are the Master’s level degrees, eventhough it is not a full Master’s degree programme. After the training, you need to apply for a special qualification in limited prescribing of medicines from the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, Valvira.

Applicants must be registered nurses, registered public health nurses or midwives and have at least three years of experience in a prescription-related field within the last five years.

Universities of Applied Sciences and universities cooperate in planning and organization of training and in ensuring competence. The studies consist of modules in pathology, clinical medicine, clinical nursing, pharmacology and prescribing. In addition to theoretical studies, the courses include practical training in health care units. Work-based learning is supervised by a physician, who is also responsible for the direct supervision of the students and is involved in the assessment of work-based learning. Competences are demonstrated through competency tests, which include a national written examination and a workplace demonstration.

The nurse’s limited right to prescribe medication is an independent health care role. It is possible in primary care outpatient services such as in the joint emergency department of the hospital district, the health center’s outpatient units and home care, as well as in specialized outpatient clinics. Limited prescribing is also possible for outpatient health care services provided by a wellbeing services county, City of Helsinki, or the joint county authority for the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa.

Limited prescribing rights require a written order specifying the medicines that the nurse may prescribe and any restrictions on prescribing. The written order is issued by the physician in charge of the health care unit where the nurse is employed. The nurse’s limited right to prescribe medication is site-specific.

Employers may apply to the state for reimbursement of the costs of training in limited prescribing. The list of medications that nurses, public health nurses, and midwives are authorized to prescribe can be found in the law (in Finnish only).