The French healthcare system has many peculiarities that foreigners might find confusing at first. The education system is completely different, everything is done in French (as is to be expected), and the work culture is unique. These quirks, along with the fact that France is not as eager to seek out foreign nurses as some other European countries, may prove a barrier of entry to some. However, rest assured that, with the right planning and lots of hard work, it is possible for foreign nurses to make it in France.
The factors that made France one of the most popular destinations in the world for tourists also make it an appealing place to work. Living there immerses you in a unique culture. You’ll also be able to visit sites like Mont Saint-Michel, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. This all goes without mentioning the food, which is unsurprisingly a massive plus.
More than this, nurses working in French hospitals are given plenty of benefits. You’ll have access to France’s universal health insurance, most of which is paid for by your employer. You will also have the right to generous parental and sick leaves, as well as 25 paid vacation days every year.
If you’d like to work in France, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll go through the steps you need to take to become an infirmier (or infirmière, if you’re a woman) in a French hospital.
4 Steps to Become a Nurse in France
1. Obtain a Nursing Education
How you go about validating your education depends largely on whether or not you studied in the EU. If you did, your degree will likely be sufficient for you to register as a nurse without any additional steps. If you received your education somewhere else, you will need to have your degree assessed and will likely need to undergo further studies in France.
Unlike most other countries, where there are universities that offer courses on a wide range of subjects, French institutes are usually more specialized. You would have schools for business, engineering, medicine, etc. A nursing school is called an Institut de Formation en Soins Infirmiers, or IFSI. Nursing programs are called Diplômes d’Etat d’infirmier, or DEIs. These typically take three years to complete.
The first step to becoming a nurse in France is to finish a nursing eductaion. If you have a nursing degree from a non-EU country, you may be eligible to complete a DEI in a shorter period of time. To determine this, you’ll need to take three diagnostic tests: one written, and two oral and practical. Your past experience and education will also be taken into account in determining how long you need to study. For example, you might find that you only need to study for a few months, while others need to do so for two years.
Of course, it’s possible to apply for admission to a full three-year DEI at an IFSI without a nursing degree. This is probably the quickest way for foreigners to become registered in France. Some IFSIs to are the IFSI de l’Hôpital Bichat AP-HP, the IFSI de l’Hôpital Cochin la Rochefoucault AP-HP, and the IFSI de l’Hôpital Saint-Antoine AP-HP.
2. Learn French
While there is no official language level required to become a registered nurse in France, the next step for you to become a nurse in the country is you will definitely need to know French to work there. Firstly, DEIs are all conducted in French. You will not be able to attend lectures and pass exams without knowing the language. More than that, to work in a hospital, you will need to communicate with patients and colleagues, which is impossible without speaking French.
Your school or employer may request evidence of French language proficiency. As it is one of the most widely learned languages in the world, there are plenty of tests you can take to certify your ability. The most popular are the DELF and the DALF. The former tests A1 to B2, while the latter tests C1 to C2. It won’t be hard to find both free and paid resources for learning the language.
We recommend acquiring at least a B2 level of French.
3. Register with a Regional Nursing Agency
Nursing in France is a registered profession. In order to be allowed to work, you’ll first need to obtain an authorization to practice from a Direction régionale de la jeunesse, des sports et de la cohésion sociale, or DRJSCS. There is one of these in each region. The DRJSCS will take your education, employment, character, etc. into account when making a decision. You’ll normally receive a reply within four months.
To be a registered nurse in France, the next step is you’ll need to head to your local ARS, or agence regional de santé. Once you’ve been approved, you’ll be given a unique ADELI number and placed on the database as a registered nurse.
4. Find a Job and Apply for a Work Permit
The last and most important step to become a nurse in France is finding a job. In France, you can either work for a public or a private hospital. Public jobs may be easier to find and provide more job security, but private practices normally offer higher pay. You can apply through the usual job portals like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. However, a significant portion of nursing jobs in the country are provided through agencies. Outside of this, your IFSI may also help you find employment.
Obtaining a work permit in France requires a letter from your employer, which means you’ll already need to have a job. The French government offers both short-term and long-term visas. To figure out which visa suits your situation best and for a full list of requirements, we recommend checking out the government’s visa website.
We hope that this article on Steps to Become a Nurse In France was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Europe!