Author(s):Sandra Bohlinger (presenting), Torsten Dunkel (presenting), Claudia Ball (presenting), Tanja Bacher (presenting), Marjan Khobreh (presenting), Luisa Kresse (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)

Format:Research Workshop

Session Information

02 SES 12 B, Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change in the Health Care Sector

Research Workshop



Chair:Pekka Ilmari Kamarainen


Reforming Education And The Imperative Of Constant Change In The Health Care Sector

This research workshop deals with skills needs and qualification structures in the European health care sector.

In its report ‘Health at a Glance: Europe 2016’, OECD states that ‘more than 1.2 million people in EU countries died in 2013 from illnesses and injuries that might have been avoided through more effective public health and prevention policies or more timely and effective health care’ (OECD 2016a: 3). (Registered) nurses alongside with professional caregivers are the most numerous health professional group and play a critical role in providing access to care. Concerns about future shortages of these two professional groups have been stated by several key stakeholders such as Cedefop (2009) or OECD (2016b) and countries have recently started attracting professional caregivers from overseas, increasing the training of new caregivers and intensifying efforts to increase retention rates in the professions (for a global overview see Li/Nie/Li 2014; see also OECD 2016b).

Focusing on the European Economic Area where numerous initiatives to promote labour market mobility and to meet skills needs are in place (e.g. the EQF or Directive 2005/36/EC), this research workshops tackles the following questions:

-          How can countries improve the image and attractiveness of registered nurses and other related professions such as caregivers?

-          How can countries ensure formal equivalence of health care qualifications given that in some countries they are being offered at tertiary levels whereas they are being provided at upper secondary or post-secondary (non-tertiary) levels in others?

-          How can stakeholders in the field (policy makers, employers, national /professional authorities and training institutions) improve the recognition and validation of foreign qualifications and prior learning (including prior work experience) to improve access to the labour market and formal qualifications?

The workshop aims at presenting, discussing and critically reflecting on existing approaches to address these questions. The workshop will start with an overview of the current situation in the health care sector including the massive and mostly technology-based challenges this sector has to face and the Action Plan for the EU health workforce adopted in 2012 (EU 2012). It will be followed by three short presentations on the main findings from three projects in this field. These are:

-          Pro-Nursing: Professional Education and Training through Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, an EU-funded project researching how nurses apply skills and skill prerequisite knowledge in various task situations, how nursing tasks are embedded in nursing processes and how nurses may acquire that knowledge which is required for successful job performance.

-          HCEU: Health Care Europe, an EU-funded project focusing on developing tools and instruments to support recognition praxis of foreign qualifications related to nursing and elderly care across Europe, providing suggestions and tools to simplify recognition and validation processes of foreign qualifications and prior learning in the healthcare sector. In this way, the project facilitates overcoming mismatches and shortages in the healthcare sector in Europe based on a smooth recognition of prior expertise migrant workers bring with them when moving to another country.

-          SOCIALCARE: a project aiming at empowering both, communities by brining formal and informal caregivers together and patients by increasing their activity in community and regaining activity by using a digital platform. In this context, this project also supports communication strategies, clustering and common goal setting and enabling individual social care networking.


This workshop intends to present, discuss and critically reflect on existing approaches to identify and overcome skills shortages in the health care sector (focusing on caregivers and (registered) nurses). This includes projects such as HCEU (Health Care Europe), Pro-Nursing and SOCIALCARE that all aim at improving the training of caregivers and the knowledge and quality of tasks that are demanded in this field. These projects were based on various methods including
a) systematic nursing job analysis and developing nursing process ontology, developing a nursing domain ontology and creating a task-knowledge matrix (Pro-Nursing)
b) expert interviews, work-related comparison of existing qualification profiles and moderated workshops with experts from the respective occupational fields, developing a competence matrix including competence areas, its validation and revision by experts (VQTS approach, i.e. Vocational Qualification Training System) (HCEU)
c) platform design, participatory design, service model development, requirement analysis in focus groups and development of personas to identify prototypic users (all of them aiming at researching the societal impact of platform based community empowerment) (SOCIALCARE)
Rather than presenting and discussing all these methods in detail, the workshop will focus on four participants-oriented methods of running a research workshop:
(i) Inviting participants to provide feedback on the presented projects and its findings, applied techniques and concepts.
(ii) Enhancing participants’ current knowledge of the above-mentioned topics.
(iii) Teaching participants new concepts they can then apply to their research and that were developed in the context of the projects HCEU, pro-nursing and SOCIALCARE.

Expected Outcomes

This workshop intends to reconsider and identify future challenges of the healthcare sector in Europe with a focus on (registered) nurses and caregivers. In view of an ageing society with multiple chronic conditions professional qualifications in the healthcare sector require (i) qualitatively new skill-mixes with clinical knowledge and social competence but also the creation of new roles for medium and lower qualified professionals. In this respect, the workshop aims at identifying future skills and tasks that will be relevant for professionals working in this field.
(ii) Second, the challenges to be faced by the sector also have quantitative implications in terms of the number of (registered) nurses and caregivers and related labour market migration flows. In this respect, the workshop provide an overview of the anticipated and needed workforce in this sector including identifying sources for attracting potential additional workforce.
(iii) Then, the session systematizes changing skills demanded by the labour market and discusses mechanisms of recognising and validating (foreign) qualifications and prior learning to facilitate both horizontal and cross-border mobility to meet such skill shortages. In this respect, the workshop will provide feasible approaches and models of validating and recognizing prior learning and thus attracting more (skilled) workers to this field.


Cededop (2009): Future skills needs in the healthcare sector. SkillsNet SectorFlash Healthcare.

European Commission (2012). Action Plan for the EU Health Workforce. Towards a job-rich recovery. Strasbourg.

Li, H.; Nie, W.; Li, J. (2014): The benefits and caveats of international nurse migration. In: International Journal of Nursing Sciences, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 314–317.

OECD (2016a): Health at a Glance: Europe 2016. State of health in the EU cycle. Paris.

OECD (2016b): Health workforce policies in OECD countries: right jobs, right skills, right places. Paris.

Author Information

Sandra Bohlinger (presenting)
Technische Universitaet Dresden
Faculty of Education
Torsten Dunkel (presenting)
National Agency Education for Europe at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (NA-BIBB)
Claudia Ball (presenting)
DEKRA Akademie GmbH
Education Research
Tanja Bacher (presenting)
3s, Austria
Marjan Khobreh (presenting)
University of Siegen
Luisa Kresse (presenting)
Tu Dresden