New route for foreign pharmacists to Swedish labor market a success

2021-01-25

In 2017, Uppsala University launched a Complementary Programme and a Proficiency test for newly arrived pharmacists. Today, the participants account for one in four applications for Swedish pharmacist licenses. "Everyone is extremely motivated," says Shima Momeni, coordinator at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Foreign Pharmacists redo for Complementary Programme at Uppsala University

During the global migrant crisis that reached its peak in the autumn of 2015, more than 162,000 people sought asylum in Sweden. Many of the refugees were highly educated with extensive professional experience, among them many pharmacists. In order to accelerate their entry into the Swedish labor market, the Ministry of Education and the National Board of Health and Welfare commissioned Uppsala University to coordinate and carry out complementary education and proficiency tests as a way to obtain a Swedish pharmacist license.

“We received the government assignment in 2016 and the following spring we arranged the first Proficiency test, a few months later we began the first Complementary Programme. In January 2021 we welcomed our eighth batch of Programme participants, and everyone is extremely motivated. More than 90 percent pass the education and almost everyone receives offers of employment before graduation,” says Shima Momeni, coordinator at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Eligibility requires foreign pharmacist training and documented skills in English and Swedish. Still the number of applicants to the Programme remains high: Each semester, up to 150 applications are received for the 32 places available. The selection is conducted via a matrix that prioritises relevant experience achieved after arrival in Sweden. The Programme lasts one year with a focus on distance learning, but each participant visits Uppsala about ten times per semester.

Shima Momemi, coordinator at the Faculty of Pharmacy
Shima Momeni, the Faculty of Pharmacy

“Thus, participants can remain in their hometowns and avoid Uppsala's housing market. The fact that they can also do their internship close to home contributes to the supply of skills in many sparsely populated regions where local pharmacists are approaching retirement age. In fact, the Complementary Programme and the Proficiency test now account for every fourth application for a Swedish pharmacist license, and several of them live in areas where their knowledge comes in handy,” says Shima Momeni.

If the Programme rolled straight from square one, the Proficiency test's path was initially more twisted. Early on, views were expressed on the scope of the bibliography as well as fears that the test would be unreasonably difficult. During the first occasion, only seven out of 29 pharmacists passed the test. The constructors of the test had to explain via the media that its purpose was to ensure that each pharmacist has the necessary knowledge, not to give a certain proportion of participants a passing grade.

“To ensure the quality of the test, we had Swedish pharmacists and pharmacy students take the test. When they all passed it, the criticism ended. But of course it was - and still is - an unusual challenge for a university. Normally, examinations are based on course content, and suddenly we have to measure professional competence in a number of multiple-choice questions. But with that said, I feel that we are getting better at constructing the test, the participants can practice on previous editions and today we are following a model that everyone seems happy with.”

Proficiency test at Uppsala University 2020

A major evaluation of the Programme and the test is currently being carried out, and in May 2021 an external expert group will present its conclusions and recommendations. Shima Momeni will by then have moved on to coordinate WoMHeR - Uppsala University's new interdisciplinary center focusing on women's mental health, but she will follow the results with interest.

“I experience that both participants and employers are very satisfied. We have received a request to expand the education, and already next year we will add a third semester with focus on communication in collaboration with the Department of Scandinavian Languages. We simply have a good spin on the Programme and test that I am now leaving with mixed emotions. It has been five fantastic years where I have been able to combine my professional skills with a private commitment to new arrivals. On the other hand, I realise that both the Programme, the test and I will benefit from new perspectives,” says Shima Momeni.

Facts

  • Uppsala University is national coordinator for The Complementary Programme for Pharmacists with a Foreign Degree.
  • The Complementary Programme for Pharmacists with a Foreign Degree is also given at the University of Gothenburg

More information

CONTACT

Sandström, Anja cantact infoSandström, Anja, the Faculty of Pharmacy
Deputy dean for first and second cycle education
anja.sandstrom@ilk.uu.se, 018-471 5026

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Shima Momeni a o

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Last modified: 2021-06-22