• 27
  • Aug

Welcome Gaby! A Spanish Nurse in the Netherlands

EMTG Spanish Nurse

Photo by Haarlems Dagblad. Foreground: Gaby, a Spanish nurse, in action at the Zorgbalans in Haarlem, Netherlands.

Cycling was no problem for her. Every morning she would freewheel down a hill in Alicante to get to the station where she would take a bus to her university. Now Gaby Ichaso (24, a Spanish nurse,  rides her bicycle with a smile over the Marsman square in Haarlem on her way to her job as a district nurse. She still has to get used to the Dutch culture, but she is already extremely popular with her patients in Delftwijk. ‘’It’s just so fun when she stops by’’ They all say.

Healthcare organisation Zorgbalans in Haarlem is now recruiting Spanish and Italian nurses in an attempt to solve the growing shortage of healthcare personnel. The recruitment is a task of the  European Multi Talent Group Health Care in Naarden and the language program is a task of the  Academia Neerlandesa in Javea, Spain. This month a second group of five foreign nurses will start working in Haarlem. Gaby Ichaso has been working in the Netherlands for a year and is ready to help the new nurses on their way.


Gaby knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nurse. ‘’After high-school in Spain you usually go to university for four years. I have an affinity for maternity care. That is, care for new-born babies. I also have a passion for helping people with illnesses such as dementia. The only problem is that there is barely any work for nurses in Spain’’.

The Spanish government keeps reducing the amount of money invested in public healthcare, Gaby tells us. ‘’It hasn’t reached the point yet where hospitals have to be closed down, but at the moment individual departments are at risk. The hospitals are trying hard to survive with their current employees, and as a result are not interested in new employees. In the summers you might find a job, but a permanent contract is almost unthinkable. Homecare is also entirely different in Spain. The Spanish government only provides this sort of care for people who are seriously ill or have wounds that need to be tended to. The patient’s family usually helps with bathing or dressing the patient, which means that we are only allowed to perform the actual nursing activities. When a patient’s family can no longer care for him/her, the patient is placed in a nursing home. However, these nursing homes are usually private enterprises and are therefore extortionate’’.

After her course at university, Gaby wanted to try gaining experience abroad. ‘’I thought about going to England or Germany. On the internet, I ended up finding an international employment agency for nurses. I filled in a form and after a week I received a reply stating that I could start working in the Netherlands, which was acceptable to me’’.


Gaby was already a highly qualified nurse but still needed to learn Dutch before being able to start working in the Netherlands. Through Skype she learned the language. ‘’One and a half hours, three days a week I had lessons. However, once the lessons were finished I would start speaking Spanish again, which made me forget what I had learned. When I arrived in the Netherlands just over a year ago, I had trouble communicating with other people. I was unfamiliar with the district I was working in and felt insecure as a result of the language barrier. The patients I cared for, however, were very receptive. They tried to help me with the language and the culture. If I didn’t quite understand what they were trying to say, they would use other words or phrases. They even tried speaking to me in English, despite my lack of proficiency in this language. Now there is a school from EMTG Health Care in Spain where you learn Dutch in class”.

Jacques Seinstra (77) has now been receiving care from Gaby for over a month. At the time she started caring for Jacques, Gaby already had a good command of the Dutch language. He shines when he talks about her. Before he started receiving care from Gaby, Jacques had been placed in a nursing home as a kidney dialysis patient. Homecare was out of the question because of a great shortage of personnel. ‘’To me, it was like being in an asylum’’ he sighs. ‘’I felt like I didn’t belong there and I wanted to leave immediately. Of course, it’s absolutely outrageous that we have to bring foreign nurses to the Netherlands, but I love Gaby. It’s just so enjoyable when she comes to see me and I think she does an excellent job.  She understands everything quickly, knows where to find everything I need and even has a great sense of humour. She actually tries to talk to me. She checks my blood pressure and blood sugar levels every morning. If these are not what they’re supposed to be, she tells me off’’. Gaby removes the ashtray and packet of cigars from his table while looking at Seinstra before taking a picture. ‘’Well, that’s not good, is it?’’ She says.


The way of life in Haarlem still surprises Gaby from time to time. ‘’The houses here are so different. Everyone has huge windows in the Netherlands. Anyone walking on the street can just stare into your living-room! You can see everything!’’ She says. ‘’I don’t like the food here though, but I do appreciate that everyone greets one another on the streets here in Delftwijk’’. Even the weather is something she doesn’t enjoy. However, now with such a warm summer, this is no longer a problem for Gaby. She is not yet sure if she wants to stay in the Netherlands. ‘’I do miss Spain, my parents, my brother and my friends. Every two months I go back to Spain to see them all. I want to continue working in the Netherlands for now. Once I’ve fully mastered the Dutch language, I want to enrol in a master’s course in nursing sciences.

Gaby now has a 32-hour contract. ‘’But at the moment, I’m working full time. That doesn’t bother me. I work morning shifts and work in the evenings. In between my shifts I rest a bit, which is necessary considering the hot weather we’re having at the moment’’.

Article published by Haarlem Dagblad

Written by Jacob van de Meulen

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