Nurse Violeta tripled her salary and received half as many patients

Established in Norway: Nurse Violeta Plaza has lived in Norway since 2018. She believes that most things are better here than in Spain for her professional group, but that there are still many challenges ahead for all the Spanish health workers who are now coming to Norway. Photo: Private

Nurse Violeta tripled her salary and received half as many patients

In Spain, Violeta Plaza was responsible for 200 patients a night. Nurse Violeta Plaza is one of the increasing number of Spanish contributors to the Norwegian healthcare system.

She believes that most things in life are better for a nurse in Norway compared to Spain. Even the high tax level:

– The salary is so much better here that the tax difference doesn’t matter. In Spain, most nurses have to work two jobs because the salary is not enough. It is quite common to work in a hospital in the morning and a nursing home in the evening.

Nurse’s paradise

From 2018 to 2022, the number of the Directorate of Health’s issuance of authorizations to Spanish nurses increased by 154 per cent.

So far this year, only Denmark and Sweden are ahead of Spain in the statistics on authorizations granted to foreign health workers.

In April, a Spanish online newspaper went so far as to declare the Norwegian healthcare system a “Garden of Eden for nurses”.

Of the 1,100 nurses who left Spain last year, more than one in three chose Norway as their new place of work.

That decision is not unproblematic for Norwegians’ holiday favourite Spain. While Norway is at the top of the world in nurse coverage with 18 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants, Spain only has 6.1.

The trade unions of Spain’s 325,000 nurses have warned several times that the low basic staffing in the Spanish healthcare system puts patients’ lives at risk.

Many good reasons

Better pay, working conditions and balance between work and family life. These are some of the advantages that the companies that recruit Spanish health workers to Norway offer.

Violeta Plaza does well for the advertising, but believes that housing and childcare facilities should also be on the list of things that are better in Norway:

– There is a lot of talk about high house prices in Norway, but prices are not particularly lower in Spanish cities. In my hometown, Madrid, there is a housing crisis and it is very difficult to enter the market, especially for young people.

– Renting an apartment costs at least 800 euros a month, at least 70 percent of the salary goes to housing. Food prices are really the only ones that are significantly lower in Spain, says Plaza.

Until Plaza moved to Norway in the spring of 2018, she worked at a private nursing home in Madrid and had been paid approximately NOK 8,000 a month.

As a permanent employee at a municipal nursing home in Larvik, she is left with around NOK 28,000 a month after tax.

– Even on maternity leave, I have been paid 26,000! says Plaza, who is still at home with her first child, who was born last October.

– A friend in Spain had a child at about the same time. She has had four months’ leave, while I have been at home for nine months with 100 per cent salary.

Another important difference between life as a nurse in Spain and Norway concerns everyday work and professional practice.

– At the nursing home where I worked in Madrid, each nurse was responsible for a ward and floor alone. This involved responsibility for 40 patients during the day. On the night shifts, I was the only nurse in the entire building, which was on five floors.

– You were responsible for 200 patients alone at night?

– Yes, that’s right: 200 patients. It was, of course, complete chaos, says Plaza.

She adds that it is not unusual at all:

– Public institutions and hospitals probably have a slightly better relationship between staffing and patients because they are subject to stricter rules, but they are still nowhere near what it is like in Norway.

– Here I can be on morning duty together with two other nurses plus healthcare workers, assistants and students in a ward with 24 patients. Here, too, the night shift may have responsibility for the entire building alone, but then it may be about 100 patients.

A love story

Plaza can only come up with two, maybe three, disadvantages of exchanging the Spanish nursing life for the Norwegian one. At the same time, they are not to be missed:

– The winters are long. Besides, being an immigrant is tough. You are far away from family and friends, and it can be difficult to find new friends and settle in a new place. The language is also a challenge.

– I know of Spanish nurses who have been told that they do not have good enough language skills to work as a nurse, but must work as an assistant until they speak well enough. Not everyone agrees that they risk getting a different role and earning less than they were envisioned before they came here.

Plaza himself believes that he started his life in Norway with a big advantage:

– I was an exchange student in Norway and got a Norwegian boyfriend. That love story is the reason I came back and got a job. This gave me both extra help with the language and a family that welcomed me. It is completely different from coming alone as a substitute.

– I worked for a summer for a temp agency, and I think it was very tough to be away from everyone I knew. Colleagues are not as welcoming when they know you can disappear within two months. Then you won’t be invited to a salary party, so to speak.

– How attractive is working in the Norwegian healthcare system for Spanish nurses?

– Most new graduates in Spain are met with poor job offers, poor pay and working conditions that are not exactly the best. If you are young and want to experience a bit, there are probably many who think that it might be nice to live here for a couple of years.

Nurse in Spain

To obtain authorization as a nurse in Spain, you must have a four-year university education.

Spain has approximately 325,000 nurses. Around 40,000 of them work on temporary and often short-term contracts.

In recent years, more and more people have chosen to travel abroad to work. From 2021 to 2022, the number who traveled abroad doubled, from 572 to 1100. In the first two months of 2023, 285 nurses left Spain in favor of work abroad. Most went to Norway.

The main reasons are salary, working conditions and the possibility of a permanent job. The average salary for a Spanish nurse in 2023 is approximately 25,000 euros a year. It varies from a starting salary of approximately 13,500 euros – approximately 45,000 euros after twenty years in the profession.

Source: Consejo general de enfermeria (CGE),

This article was first published in Norwegian at

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