Archive for March, 2014



Article about Paragona services in the Croatian press:

Click to access ja-izvozim-hrvatske-lijecnike-na-zapad.pdf

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Globus reporters visit Paragona Employment Agency in Warsaw

They live in isolation at our campus for four months. They spend every day and night learning the language and the customs of the EU country, in which we have found jobs for them.


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Never say never. Dimitrius, a Greek cardiologist, probably never thought a few years back that he would be learning Swedish intensively. His view on Sweden has always been positive, apart from the obvious thing which always bothers the southern people about the northern countries, namely the climate. And yet Dimitrius, who was one of the most ambitious doctors at his previous hospital, would now begin his every day at work by saying
Jag är din doktor. Kan jag hjälpa dig?
the phrase which he will repeat every day when attending to his patients at the hospital in Linköping.
I am your doctor. How may I help you?

While he looks through a sizeable book (Swedish language and medical terminology), Dimitrius tells us how he found himself here in the suburban area of Warsaw, at Paragona campus, on the second floor of a comfortable business and apartment building, learning Swedish and preparing himself for a huge change in his private and professional life. In the background we hear the voice of a Swedish TV presenter. The information on course schedule is in Swedish. You can even find the national flag of Sweden here.

“I searched in Google and I immediately found this agency. To be honest with you, when they replied I expected something like You have just won a million dollars kind of e-mail. But it was not the case. I sent them my CV. Everything was very professional. This was the first time in my life that I had sent my CV and I did not have to make any phone calls after that to find out the names of people who might know a person who would know somebody who would know something or somebody who would be able to make any decisions in connection with this job offer,” says Dimitrius with an ironic smile on his face. We know full well what he means.

SZFSDZFC. Dimitrius did not leave Greece because of economic stagnation alone. Not only because of that anyway. He left Greece because he wanted to develop his qualifications as a doctor during the finest years of his medical career. He left because he thought he had found an opportunity he could not miss and the years of his hard work and effort, when compared to the profits he would gain, were his potential for the better future. Many of his friends had left Greece but they left much earlier than Dimitrius.

“When the agency called my boss and asked him for his opinion on me, he told me that he would like to keep me at his hospital but unfortunately he could not offer me anything,” explains Dimitrius.

That is the reason why Dimitrius spends each day learning Swedish pronounciation from the morning till the afternoon and then he does his homework. This is the routine he is going to repeat for the next three months. Basically everything is dominated by language learning. Neither Dimitrius nor his Portuguese friend, a dermatologist named Carolina, have ever been in the centre of Warsaw. Their attention is entirely focused on learning the mother tongue of their new homeland.
“Doctors are good at learning,” says Dimitrius.
“It seems that I spend the same amount of time learning now as I used to do when I was a student and I was revising for my exams. The only difference is that I have to revise anatomy but this time in Swedish,” says Dimitrius’ Portuguese friend. She is also going to Linköping but she will work at the dermatology ward there. They have both attended an interview at the hospital. They were met by the chiefs of their wards, their future colleagues and nurses, who tried to ensure them that they would indeed be welcome at the hospital.

“They knew every single detail of my life and were informed of what I was doing in Portugal,” says Carolina.
It is obvious that neither Dimitrius nor Carolina want to give up. Nevertheless, it has happened before. Doctors may at any time say that they have changed their mind and want to go home. At Paragona they are used to different situations and that is why the first step they take is to prepare a doctor’s profile which includes an estimate on how quickly a doctor can learn a foreign language, bearing in mind that the preparation time is limited. However, as Adam Ringer, the head of Paragona puts it “We consider nothing that is human alien to us”.

“My patients, when they learnt that I was about to leave, were sending me e-mails to encourage and support me in my decision. They said “You have been a good doctor here, so you will be a good doctor there as well.” That was something which made my decision easier,” says Carolina. It was obviously difficult for her to leave her husband and children for 15 weeks.
“Nevertheless, when I was considering what to do, and that decision was growing inside me for a year, I realised that even though I would be separated from my family for four months, this time would actually be an investment in their future.”
Carolina’s husband, who is an economist, agreed to her plan. Now they spend hours every evening chatting on Skype.

Carolina adds that during the recruitment process the agency did not withhold any information from her.
“At all times I knew exactly what I was participating in. When we arrived for the first time, they showed us the photos of the flat I would be staying at. Everything turned out exactly like we had been told and without any unpleasant surprises,” she says.

DEVELOPMENT. “It is not only about going to a country where everything is organised in a better way. It is also the professional development that counts. In Sweden I am going to work with people who change the modern medicine and in particular my own medical specialty. Plus everything is so well-organised. My children will have a Greek interpreter at school for the first few weeks to make it easier for them to adapt to the new situation,” adds Dimitrius.

There are ten doctors staying at the Paragona campus at the moment. They are preparing for their new jobs. Among them, there are Croatian doctors, who are not ready to talk to us yet. Dimitrius and Carolina are more open towards us, even though we record Carolina as she sits with her back turned to us. We only give their first names anyway.

A few months ago the agency organised a presentation in Zagreb. The room they had hired in one of the hotels in Zagreb was jam-packed with people. It was similar to the other 16 countries within the EU where the agency operates. Paragona has been present on the market since 2002 and throughout the years they have recruited over 1,000 doctors and other medical personnel.
Paragona connects hospitals in western and northern Europe with doctors from the east and south of Europe.

When Paragona receives a vacant job position following an open tender organised locally for a given hospital, they are also allocated an exact period of time during which they must prepare a doctor to be able to work in the new environment. Doctors learn a foreign language and spend 15 weeks in the suburban area of Warsaw (almost in isolation) while members of their families learn a foreign language online.

Doctors learn a foreign language and spend 15 weeks in the suburban area of Warsaw (almost in isolation) while members of their families learn a foreign language online. The agency is responsible for relocations and their job is to find accommodation for doctors and a school for their children.

bez tytułu
Kasia Nosarzewska is in charge of all the paperwork

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connected with relocations. She also looks for a new home for doctors and a school for their children… Doctors arrive when everything is ready and if there are any problems, they call Soren Vad or Catherina Ringer (their Swedish language teachers) to ask for help.
“They are every teacher’s dream,” says Soren, who is Danish. “They are entirely focused on learning.”
It is most difficult for psychiatrists as they are in constant interaction with their patients.
“They cope well but there are always some unexpected situations,” says their teacher. “For example, once there was a patient who started to cite the Bible in Old Norse. The female doctor could not understand him but neither could the nurse, who was a local person after all.”

It is easiest for pathologists as they do not have to talk much.
“First, they master the standard questions which doctors ask during an interview with a patient. Then, they attend a language course (after they have moved) and go on learning a language until they master it.”

I ask Soren Vad if doctors also learn other things such as the legal regulations connected with practising medicine and the customs of their future country. It turns out that doctors learn about the legal regulations connected with practising medicine but when it comes to the customs of their future country Soren replies “We do not want to go into something which could be considered prejudice. We just try to explain how things work in a foreign country. For example, you will never hear patients complaining about their problems at a Swedish hospital. Instead, they prefer to talk about the challenges that they face,” he adds.

Furthermore, conflicts and tensions tend to happen quite rarely. Teamwork is much more appreciated than individualism.
“Oh, I already dream in Swedish,” says Carolina with satisfaction.
LORRY DRIVERS. Adam Ringer says that the Agency recruits not only doctors but also drivers. At the moment 400 drivers are needed in the UK so there are not enough Poles who would go behind the wheel. Drivers attend a different course. They are taught to drive on simulators which are equipped with a steering wheel fitted on the right hand side and they also learn the UK Highway Code.

Scandinavia has marked the lives of Martin Ratz and Adam Ringer, the founders of Paragona. Ratz is the child of Polish political emigrants and Ringer is a political emigrant who returned to Poland after the fall of communism.

Work is organised to perfection, although as Martin Ratz tells us, it is not always easy as there are some less serious companies which operate in the same field of activity as the agency, however, their activities tend to be unethical.
But there are also problems with the countries they recruit from.
“In most cases we have had a similar experience with any new market in Europe, with the exception of Croatia, which was a negative exception unfortunately. None of the 16 countries where we operate has ever penalised doctors who wanted to leave. Such policy, which we have never experienced in any other country, destroys one of the pillars of the EU, namely a person’s right to work anywhere in Europe. It seems that Croatian doctors are scapegoats of bad political decisions. Furthermore, the fear of doctors’ exodus is unfounded. Just take a look at the situation in other European countries. Poland, for example, has got more doctors now than 10 years ago, when it became a part of the EU and at the same time the number of people living in Poland has decreased. The idea of financial penalties brings communism to mind as it was the time when people had to pay an arm and a leg to get their visas and be able to go abroad. This is absurd especially when it comes to medical profession which by definition is not restricted by political boundaries and whose aim is to help people. Croatia should change this attitude immediately as their choice is simple. They will either have to accept the concept of free Europe or they do not belong here,” says Martin firmly.

It is not yet known how many doctors have left Croatia in this way. This year alone the number of doctors who have left Croatia is around 20 but ever since the European market became available for Croatian doctors, it is estimated that over 200 of them have left Croatia. Many of them have left for their new homes with the help of Paragona.

When the central and eastern European countries started entering the EU and the western European countries opened their job markets, people realised that medical staff, doctors and nurses would be required in developed countries of western Europe. The medical profession is very mobile as doctors share the same knowledge in different languages. That is why these two facts had to be combined. Polish doctors, nurses and dentists were the first ones to go. In the course of time, however, the economic situation began to change and that was the reason why Polish doctors started to go back home where they would experience better standards and work conditions, whereas the western hospitals began filling with doctors from Romania, Greece, Portugal and Croatia.

Agnieszka Anusiewicz has little time for coffee as she has to recruit as many as 20 psychiatrists because that is the number of psychiatrists Paragona is currently looking for. Her colleagues from the office, Ewelina Sawicka and Kamila Pomacho Komar have been constantly on the phone since morning. While Adam is taking us on a tour of the office, which is full of people holding phones in their hands, Kamila hangs up on her phone.
“I have just been talking to a doctor from Croatia,” she explains. “He is interested in taking the job and he is on the verge of making a decision to talk to the hospital. There must always be a spark between candidates and their new work environment, if not a city. There are many factors which need to be taken into account,” says Agnieszka, who has for ten years now been patiently answering the questions asked by doctors and recruiting them for their new jobs. There are no panic attacks. Doctors are, as Agnieszka says, not used to these conversations as they would previously just submit their CV and a cover letter. That was it. Now they take part in the recruitment process. This involves attending interviews, aims at establishing how quickly they can learn a foreign language and checks how they cope with teamwork. Their references are also checked and conversations are made with the previous hospital they worked at. Paragona assumes the responsibility for doctor training, teaching them a foreign language and providing accommodation at one of their campuses in Warsaw or Budapest (Paragona also has local offices in Bucharest and Sweden). All costs are refunded by local budgets, i.e. by the hospital, but the refunds are made only when a doctor starts working in a new place.

JUST LIKE IN HALLS OF RESIDENCE. Some of the work places are quite exotic. Paragona employees show us the north of Norway. There is one surgeon working there near the Russian border. It is pretty much as cold as it can get.
“But he was offered good work conditions,” they explain.
At the end of the day, it is always a matter of individual choice. They have rarely had doctors giving up at Paragona. Everything else has pretty much happened. Starting from situations when some doctors said that they did not want to go on a holiday break back home (doctors are entitled to one longer weekend at home before their exams) because their life at the campus reminded them of the times they had spent at university and they did want to go back to their housekeeping chores, and going as far as love affairs between doctors and teachers.

When it comes to lorry drivers, they also have a few interesting stories to tell. Once they had a really heated argument at the house they stayed at in England. On another occasion they went to the pub when an international football match was on and they decided to support the team that England played against. To say the least, that was not the most memorable evening for them.
“The doctors who go to Sweden have to adapt to the new situation and the environment, in which teamwork is important,” says Agnieszka in a diplomatic way. Adam explains what she really means
“You are only good at what you do if you are capable of working in a team,” he says.

It is not a secret that doctors may have an indifferent or even an arrogant attitude to their patients. Such an attitude has no place in Sweden for example. Patients have their rights and they are informed of them. They have to understand what is wrong with them and that is why doctors should be open and ready to cooperate.
The agency has been using social networking websites, however, it turns out that the word of mouth has always been the best advertising method for Paragona activities.
In the meantime they extend the scope of their activity.

There is a meeting for prospective employees of Paragona chain of sweet shops and cafés in the room where we were supposed to have our meeting at Paragona headquarters in Warsaw. They have around 20 shops in Warsaw now and they plan for more. The entire European Union may become the area of their activity. This is what they learnt early enough and they learnt from good examples.

Polish doctors started to go back home because they now experience better standards and work conditions in Poland than in western Europe, whereas the western hospitals began filling with doctors from Romania, Greece, Portugal and Croatia.

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