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Nurses’ Voices from Finland

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Päivi Salminen

Marketing and Communication Manager

Salumedia Labs

From: Nurses of a residential care centre for the elderly in Finland

This is a story of nursing and nurses working in a residential care centre for the elderly in Finland based on a virtual coffee chat.

In general, nurses are valued but often not enough. In Finland nurses study at universities of applied sciences and nursing education is bachelor level. The same education is required for public health nurses, midwives, and paramedics. Completing the studies takes between 3.5 and 4.5 years and consists of 210-270 ECTS credits. After graduation, registered nurses can continue their education and pursue a master’s degree at academic or universities of applied sciences. [1, 2]

The work of nurses

People frequently fail to recognize the added skills and qualifications of nurses compared to assistant nurses. The study curricula differ slightly, and knowledge of various diseases and treatments is both deeper and wider. Do the general public value and respect nurses? It depends. The value varies depending on where you work; for example, nurses working in intensive care units or on-call are valued higher than nurses working in nursing homes or residential care centres for the elderly. However, hearing ‘thank you’ from patients and caregivers always warms nurses’ hearts.

In a residential care centre for the elderly, the nurses do the daily patient round with the doctor, order medication, evaluate the patients’ physical and mental capabilities bi-yearly, and provide general and medical care. They work together with assistant nurses, but nurses have an overall bigger responsibility. At residential care centres for the elderly, nurses also prepare and send out monthly invoices, so their work really covers a wide range of tasks.

To provide better care, would mean that the nurses would have more time to focus on the patient, their health status, medication, and so on. Cooperation with specialised nurses would also be beneficial for direct consultation, etc. from one nurse to the other. It would improve the quality of care.

The work of nurses in residential care centre for elderly

Nurses aim to care for the elderly for the remaining of their lives. They make every effort to care for all the needs on-site for avoiding unnecessary hospital transportations. Of course, in the case of a fracture, etc. this transportation would be required for better treatment.

In a world without nurses

If there were no nurses, assistant nurses would most likely handle most of the work, with the added time and involvement of doctors. Nonetheless, some of the tasks could not be done basically due to a lack of skill. The knowledge and qualifications of nurses have also brought them more responsibilities, and when that link would be missing, it would require a doctor by the side all the time to take responsibility for the decisions and actions.

Palliative care in Finland from the nurses’ point of view

Currently, there is still much to be done to improve palliative care in Finland. In general, palliative care is decided when there is no hope for a cure, which is often too late, almost at the end-of-life stage. This can lead to “over-treatment”, such as when nurses are asked to take a bacteria sample from bedsore or treat blood vessel wounds when amputation would be the best option. The best care could be obtained if a palliative care decision was made at the same time as the diagnosis.

When a patient receives the palliative care decision, it benefits the patient and his/her family because they are aware of the reality and are not deluded by the false hope of improvement. It also helps nurses understand how to continue care, treat different symptoms, and guide patients and their families.

The most significant barrier, in our opinion, is a lack of palliative care awareness. Often, the patient and family do not fully comprehend what palliative care means; it is strongly linked to death, and they feel “abandoned” and scared of no longer being cared for.

As well as providing care and support to patients, palliative care nurses help entire families through one of the toughest times any of us will face.

No matter where they work, nurses have an important role in providing care and emotional support to the elderly and their loved ones. Their work involves addressing complex issues and meeting the multiple needs of a diverse older people population, particularly those in residential care.

Nursing is a challenging profession that cares for people and helps patients achieve optimal health delivering excellent person-centred care. Especially in residential care settings, they contribute to making the most of the time they have left for being invaluable.

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every 12th May. The theme for 2021 is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A vision for future healthcare”.


[1] Nursing and Nurse Education in Finland

[2] Salminen L., Koskinen S., Heikkilä A., Strandell-Laine C., Haavisto E., Leino-Kilpi H. (2019) Nursing Education and Nurse Education Research in Finland. In: Hafsteinsdóttir T., Jónsdóttir H., Kirkevold M., Leino-Kilpi H., Lomborg K., Rahm Hallberg I. (eds) Leadership in Nursing: Experiences from the European Nordic Countries. Springer, Cham.

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