Health care: Vocational training reform designed to inspire new talent


Three for the price of one: in the future, training programs in pediatric, patient, and geriatric care are to be consolidated based on this principle. The so-called Pflegeberufsreformgesetz (English: Health Care Profession Reform Act) was already passed on January 13, 2016, by the German government. What does this reform mean for the future of health care services?

Photo: Elderly woman in a wheelchair and a nurse; Copyright:

; ©

Demographic changes over the next few years will ensure that the demand for well-trained health care professionals will continue to increase. "This is why we need to make the future in-demand healthcare occupations even more attractive right now," German Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe states in a press release. "The new health care training program optimally prepares our health care professionals for the changed requirements in health care: health professionals in nursing homes increasingly also need to attend to persons affected by multiple or chronic diseases. A health professional at a hospital needs the respective skills to take care of dementia patients. At the same time, health professionals will have more opportunities to advance their professional careers in the future. This benefits everyone: both the health professionals and patients with health care needs."

The health care challenge

Only recently, the study titled "Dementia in General Hospitals. Prevalence and the Care Situation" conducted by the University of Mannheim and the Technical University of Munich and funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung (Foundation) determined that dementia patients present a challenge for hospital staff. A total of 40 percent of all patients over age 65 in general hospitals exhibit cognitive impairments; almost every fifth person has dementia.

Yet hospital staff is often not adequately prepared to take care of patients with dementia. Medical treatment needs of nursing home residents are also increasing. That’s why comprehensive qualification becomes more and more important.

This is precisely where the generalist level care training comes in. The new three-year training program is no longer subdivided into pediatric, patient and geriatric care but consolidated into a standardized job profile instead. Health care workers who are trained in this way, are ultimately meant to be able to provide care for people of all age groups.

Controversial reform

The reform conjures up debates among health care experts. There are many pros and cons: the multi-faceted training ensures that health care professionals are clearly more flexible in their field – employment in outpatient care services, nursing homes, day care and night care facilities, hospitals, hospice care and other living facilities will now be possible for instance. This is also designed to once again make the health care profession more attractive to prospective new talent. Among other things, the reform also stipulates the exemption from tuitions and fees, the introduction of union negotiated apprentice wages as well as the introduction of an advanced studies program in health care.

In contrast, the major disadvantage being discussed is that training contents will now be reduced to a common denominator due to a consolidation of the three professions. Opponents worry that the training content will no longer be as in-depth and detailed and that many subjects will have to be acquired later on through continuing education programs.

Even though the exact basic parameters for the new health care training program are not determined yet, things are progressing. Sample training and core curriculums still need to be developed. That’s why health care schools and training facilities still have some time to prepare for the new training program.

The first class of health care students under the new program are expected to start with their studies on January 1, 2018. However, the specific type of professional career they will be acquiring is so far still somewhat uncertain. An exact name for the completed training has not been determined yet. At present, terms such as "health care expert" or "health care generalist" are still under consideration.

Photo: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

Nadine Lormis
(translated by Elena O'Meara)

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