Malou, becoming a doctor in Finland


Photo by Juha Roisko

I wanted to become a doctor for as long as I can remember

When I was very young, I knew I wanted to become a doctor. I loved my pediatrician in the Philippines, and she inspired me to become a pediatrician. She eventually became one of my mentors in my pediatric residency training. When I got married, she came to our wedding as well.

I fell in love and married a Finn

I got married to my Finnish husband in 2012, and I moved to Finland in 2013. My husband and I met in the Philippines. We were introduced to each other by his friend. My husband and I communicated online for a while, after which he then went to Cebu several times to meet with my family and me before we decided to get married. I worked as a pediatrician there for four years before I moved to Finland.

Moving to Finland was full of challenges.

When I moved here, I must say that the culture was very different. And the weather— it was cold and dark. The darkness was very hard for me, and I had to get used to it. Back then, I didn't have friends here, and I felt alone. I was thinking, "why did I come here at all?"

The most difficult aspect for me was the language. Finnish is not an easy language to learn. I cried when I came here because of the language struggle. I thought that I could never learn this language and I would end up going back home. But then I managed to learn it enough to pass the language exam.


When people speak in "puhekieli" or when people speak fast, I have difficulty understanding. Grammar in the Philippines has always been important. When I moved here, I was always very conscious about grammar. But my husband has told me not to worry about it—that it is more important to understand the language and to speak in a manner that others could understand me.

The one challenge for me is still the language. It has improved, of course, and it's getting better with time.

The Finnish language is challenging but necessary.

To practice medicine and work as a doctor in Finland, I had to learn the Finnish language because we must speak and communicate effectively. Therefore, I immediately started studying the language. I attended courses organized by the TE-toimisto (work office). And then I went to do the YKI-testi, the language exam.

Now at work, I use the Finnish language, except if non-Finnish speaking patients come and ask to use the English language, then, of course, we speak English.

Finland is quiet and peaceful, but the Philippines is family

I like Finland. It is safe here. People are generally honest, generally obedient, and respectful to rules and regulations. Compared to the Philippines, it is more quiet and peaceful here. But of course, I love the Philippines-- it is my country, home, and family that live there.


Be proud and don´t give up

There is still so much I need to know and improve as a doctor. I am happy that I didn't give up, and I'm proud of myself for that. I am happy that my husband has always been supportive. I have friends here now. My husband's family has also been friendly and supportive.

I think we should all be proud of ourselves. We have our accomplishments, go through challenges, and try to come out of them successfully. Little by little, we will all get there.

General Doctor as a career

I'm a general doctor here, not a pediatrician, and I deal with people of basically any age. Here they do not recognize any specialization from other countries outside the EU. We must take qualifying exams.

I had to take three examinations until I got the license to practice medicine here.

About my job, well, the terveyskeskuslääkäri-job is a stressful job. Each patient might have more than one problem; they have different personalities and characters. Some are more understanding than others, some a lot more impatient and irritable. The schedules are tight, and we must deal with time constraints. We only have a very limited time to see each patient-- this is a challenge for me, I just try to "keep it together "while keeping up with the stress that comes with the job.

I like my job, though... and I like my work. My colleagues are very professional, kind, and friendly, and our working environment is very pleasant. I am very happy in my workplace.

The working environment is less hierarchical.

I can only speak about working experience in the medical field and only about my own experience. Working environments vary, even in just one country. In my experience, there is more hierarchy and power-tripping back home, but then I am not saying that it doesn't exist here. On the other hand, in my opinion, Filipinos know how to mix work and pleasure better, we socialize more with our colleagues, we quickly become friends with people we work with. This is what I miss.

It is understandable why Finland does not fully recognize specializations in other countries.

The training methods vary from country to country. Different algorithms and protocols are followed in different countries, so I kind of understand why they don't fully recognize the specializations done in other countries. I don't have an issue with undergoing the same training again. Medicine is always changing, evolving. Training again means learning new things and re-learning what we already learned before. And that, I think, means safer medical practice in the long run.

The Finnish health care system is efficient but not perfect

As a whole, it is really a good system especially compared to ours in the Philippines. Of course, it is not perfect, and there are things to improve as it would be in any country. But overall, the healthcare system is very efficient here.

For example (just one of many), the Neuvola- and terveyskeskus-system is very good here. People who come to the health centers do not need to worry about money (how much the doctor's visits cost, the price of the lab, tests, X-rays, etc., some medications are even partly paid for by Kela). There is no need to stress about the monetary side of things compared to how it is in the Philippines.

In Finland, emergency services are readily available to everyone regardless of their ability to put down some or any amount of money. This is contrary to our situation back home. Here people don't need to pay so much money when it comes to their health and well-being. The government has provided this system, and it really does work.

Economically, we are not on the same level as Finland, and we are not a developed country like Finland.