COVID-19 pandemic exposes southern Europe’s nursing shortage
Doctors and nurses per capita data are from Eurostat : in most cases, the figures are from 2017, although in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, the numbers go back to 2016, and in Finland to 2014. In all cases, we compared the categories of practicing doctors and practicing nurses in each country.
In some countries, the figures for practicing nurses are overestimated: Austria and Latvia include nursing assistants, while Cyprus and Spain count midwives. Despite the fact midwives in Cyprus and Spain earn nursing degrees before specialising in obstetric and gynaecological care, the vast majority of European countries publish separate figures for midwives. Other countries could be reporting artificially low figures. For example, Czechia and Hungary do not count nurses working in care homes, Estonia does not include nurses specialised in radiology, Malta does not count self-employed nurses, Poland does not include prison nurses and the UK only reports public sector data.
In the case of doctors , some countries exclude certain specialities. Luxembourg, for example, excludes haematologists, microbiologists and pathologists, Germany excludes maxillofacial surgeons and Belgium excludes internal medicine doctors.
In addition, Italy estimates the number of practicing nurses using the register of professionals who have completed mandatory recurrent training in recent years. Finland’s estimate is based on a survey conducted in 2014 so their data may no longer be accurate. Finally, we have not included France , Portugal , Ireland and Slovakia since they do not publish their updated figures in Eurostat and the numbers that they report at national level and to the OECD do not correspond to the OECD category of practicing professionals, for doctors and nurses . We have also decided to exclude Romania, given that its numbers for nurses include workers such as laboratory assistants and forensic assistants, among others.
To calculate the ratio of nurses to doctors, we used the total doctors and nurses by country data published by Eurostat, not the per capita figures. We did not include Greece and the Czechia in the ratio calculation since their medical personnel data are inconsistent.