Here's how to learn Swedish if you have a medical degree

Are you new to Sweden with a medical degree from your home country and not sure how to tackle the job market or the notoriously tricky language? Don’t panic, help is close at hand.

Published: Tue 16 Nov 2021 08:30 CEST
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Swedish for Medical Personnel, SFM, is the perfect course for you. If you have a medical degree from your country of origin and you’re a trained doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, dietician or physiotherapist, you can apply to study at SFM. You’ll get priority if it’s less than three years since you joined Sweden’s population register (but you can still apply even if you’ve been here much longer).

Learn more about SFM and how to apply to start studying in March 2022

Emna Smati, a dentist originally from Tunisia, signed up for the course this year, and is especially impressed with the fact that the course offers four hours a week of studying professional medical Swedish.

“SFM is oriented to people like me, those who have a medical education and a medical background in their previous home country,” Emna says. “It offers something that other courses don't, which is the Swedish medical language component.”

She emphasises how important it is to learn local medical terminology for the medical profession. “More than many other professions, understanding local medical terms can be a matter of life and death,” she says. “If you're talking to a patient and you need to explain some medical-related issue, you can't just talk in English, they probably wouldn't understand. It's the patient’s right to understand what's going on.”

Marylee Caspillo, a nurse who arrived in Sweden from Germany, agrees that learning medical Swedish is vital. “When I first arrived lots of people told me that I would get a job really easily without knowing the Swedish language because there were acute shortages of nurses,” she says. “And they were right – I could’ve taken a job at a private facility. But I think it’s important to speak the native language and to understand all the medical terms in Swedish, especially when many of our patients are older people – we must not assume that they will be able to speak English.”

Marylee also believes it’s vital that medical teams all speak the same language. “As nurses we work in teams with Swedish doctors, so we really need the Swedish medical vocabulary when helping patients in practical situations.”

Students at SFM also study the Swedish healthcare system and culture, as well as medical law. These vocational courses are provided by licensed professionals with many years experience in Swedish healthcare. The courses have a fairly even gender-split, usually of around 60 percent females and 40 percent males.

Each part of the course lasts nine weeks, consisting of between 18 and 22 lesson hours a week, plus 15 to 20 hours of studying on your own. Students spend three days per week on-site in Huddinge in Stockholm County and two days’ distance learning. The training takes up to 18 months depending on your level of Swedish at the start.

Ready to learn medical Swedish? Apply for a place on Swedish for Medical Personnel, SFM, before January 24th to start a class in March

Shabrina Shabrina, a doctor from Indonesia, said she struggled at first with learning Swedish after moving to Sweden. “I found it more complicated than English, but the learning style was also too slow. I needed to learn more quickly because I wanted to start work as a doctor.”

Shabrina also emphasised that doctors who come from outside the EU have to take extra theoretical and practical exams, before they’re allowed to commence work as a doctor in Sweden. “SFM’s intense course in Swedish medical terminology makes a huge difference in helping us pass those exams,” she says.

“I also had an interview recently and the interviewer complimented me on my Swedish – she couldn’t believe I’d only been in the country less than two years. And that was all down to SFM.”

Emna appreciated the mix of on-site and remote learning. “I have a daughter and it was a struggle for me at first because when I started the SFM course, my daughter was too young for preschool. But the remote learning option was made available and that made it much easier for me to immerse myself in the course.” 

Marylee is also a fan of the study mix. “The structure is great,” she says. “When we’re onsite we can meet with the teachers and mix with our fellow students. And we’re doing it in Swedish! Right now, we’re near the end of the course and everyone’s Swedish is now quite fluent and we’re enjoying chatting to each other in Swedish - it’s really fun.”

But it was another of the course’s great benefits – that each profession receives dedicated tuition from a specialist – that most pleased Emna. “For example, as a dentist, I get lessons from a dentist – I really didn’t expect that! I had a pharmacist in my study group and she also received targeted lessons.”

As a doctor, Shabrina also enjoyed the profession-relevant parts of the course. “We had a chance to carry out practical work at the Karolinska Institute, which is one of the world's foremost medical universities. It was a terrific experience.”

Even when the course is over, Emna says, the teachers and professors make themselves available to help former students. “I’ve known people who’ve contacted the teaching staff a year after completing the course asking for help with their resumés and they’ve been helped immediately. The teaching staff are amazing – they always make themselves available.”

But studying at SFM also offers other tangible advantages to international residents in Sweden. Marylee, like many people who move to a new country for love, had no friends when she arrived.

SFM changed my life,” she says. “When you move to a country for love, your partner’s friends become your friends but they’re not friends that you choose. So the course gave me the chance to make my own friends who were interested in the things I was interested in. I now have my own circle of friends and you can’t measure the importance of that.”

Medically trained and want to learn Swedish? Make a positive start to 2022 – learn more about SFM and how to start a course in March


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