From Ukraine to Finland to work in the field of medicine – SIMHE services helped a doctor and a dentist find employment

Experiences Higher education Internationalisation Ukraine Working life cooperation
Surgeon Rashid Khan learned the Finnish language in Ukraine and found work with the help of the SIMHE training. Dentist Iryna Daniuk in turn came to Finland and SIMHE helped her to get the documents ready and the studies under way.

In 2023, the SIMHE services have been targeted especially at people who have come to Finland from Ukraine and have a higher education degree.

One of those who have benefited from the services in Ukrainian dentist Iryna Daniuk, who now lives in Kurikka. When Daniuk arrived in Finland about a year and a half ago, an acquaintance, a former patient of hers, lived in Tampere. This acquaintance sent her a link to the SIMHE services and said that the services would enable Daniuk to have an opportunity to work in her own field in Finland.

“That’s how I learned to know Tiina Miikkulainen, who found out about everything for me really quickly. It really helped me because my language skills were not good,” Daniuk says.

The aim of the programme is to streamline the identification of the prior learning of highly educated immigrants and to facilitate their access to higher education, completion of degrees and employment in the Finnish labour market .

“We do not serve only our own higher education institution, but the immigrants in the region,” says project manager Päivi Vartiainen from Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

Online courses in advanced Finnish, group guidance, personal guidance and training preparing for higher education are provided. By 7 November, Tampere University of Applied Sciences had provided guidance to 580 people in 2023. Courses in the Finnish language had had about 150 students and training preparing for higher education 18 students.

“The aim is to enable highly educated immigrants to learn the language and help them apply for education and training and find work,” Vartiainen summarises.

Kuva Iryna Daniukista.
Iryna Daniuk

Many complications on the way

Surgeon Rashid Khan also came to Finland from Ukraine but for him, the journey was more complicated than for many others.

Khan is originally from Pakistan and he applied to study medicine in Ukraine. He specialised in surgery and was granted Ukrainian citizenship. His work took him to Pakistan, back to Ukraine and even to China. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was in Ukraine again and began to look for new opportunities abroad. Finland was tempting because a person who knows the language may be accepted to work in a hospital as a doctor in training very quickly, is paid and often gets an apartment.

“A doctor needs practice, it is not good to be without work for a year or two,” he says.

Khan began to study Finnish in Ukraine, first through YouTube and later, on the online courses of Savonia University of Applied Sciences.

He sent his degree certificates to Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, which informed him three months later that they were in order and welcomed him to Finland. In a Facebook group for Finnish doctors, he found out about the SIMHE services and applied for the SIMHE job search training. He participated in it online from Ukraine.

In the training, guidance was provided on how to draw up an application for a position as a doctor in training and how to update a CV in Finnish. In addition, they did a practice job interview, made a video application and studied the guidelines of different hospitals for traineeships of persons who have completed their studies abroad.

“I had never practised a job interview and didn't know how people apply for jobs in Finland,” Khan says.

When Heli Kamppari, the leader of the course, said that it was time to send the CV to hospitals, Khan did so.

“A week later, I was offered an employment contract!” he says.

This all happened when he was still in Ukraine. In fact, he was offered a job in two central hospitals, in Tampere and in Lapland, but he chose Tampere.

“Lapland is also good, but Tampere is close to Helsinki and Turku, it is a very good place,” he says and gives a laugh.


Kuva Rashid Khanista.
Rashid Khan


SIMHE helped with the correspondence with Valvira

Iryna Daniuk was already in Finland but did not know what Finnish processes she should go through to be able to work as a dentist. She was helped by the SIMHE coordinator to write a letter to Valvira, which asked her to provide additional and supplementing information for a few times.

“Every time I asked Tiina what I needed to do. She always helped me,” Daniuk recalls.

Miikkulainen also tried to calm her down when she was impatient. Daniuk can laugh about it now.

“I wanted to find work quickly and Tiina advised me to wait.”

After having verified matters, Valvira granted her the rights and Daniuk also started preparatory online studies in social services at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The training is aimed at improving the participants’ proficiency in Finnish and their capacities for the studies in healthcare and social services. In the training, they familiarise themselves with the healthcare and social welfare sector and acquire skills for studies of the field in universities of applied sciences.

“I am now doing a traineeship at a dental clinic and I am gradually finding out how a dentist works in Finland.”

She did not know any Finnish before coming to Finland and her proficiency is getting better and better.

“I like the Finnish language! When I travel with my friends and speak Finnish, no one understands us,” she says and gives a laugh.

Daniuk lives in Kurikka and hopes to find work as a dentist there. Something like this has already been mentioned at the clinic where she is doing her traineeship.

“I would like to stay in Finland and work as a dentist. I like helping people.”

Daniuk says that the SIMHE services made many things in her life easier and also brought her much joy. She could also ask the coordinator about other things related to settling in Finland, not only about work-related things.

The surgeon's hands can operate again

Rashid Khan believes that everything went quickly thanks to the SIMHE services, in particular. He has now been working on different wards at Tampere University Hospital Tays for over a year.

“My medical experience has developed very much,” he says.

He is preparing for the last ones of Valvira’s examinations to be granted the professional rights of a doctor. He still needs to take a test in standard language.

“When I have completed everything, I would like to work as a surgeon,” he says.

He has been able to perform small operations on the internal medicine ward and his instructors have also told him that he has the hands of a surgeon. He has already performed over 3,000 operations in his career and it is likely that there will be more of in Finland.

“I hope the work will continue”

Higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education and Culture are currently having negotiations regarding the new funding period beginning in 2025. 

Päivi Vartianen hopes that the separate funding for the SIMHE services will continue as the services benefit the Government Programme by enabling highly educated people to enter the Finnish labour market.

“From society’s point of view, it is extremely important, for example, to enable the spouses of those people who have come to Finland to work to also find employment. It is a group that is not really supported by anyone.”

If the earmarked money runs out, she hopes that the leadership of higher education institutions will have the wisdom to use the freely available money for these services.


Text: Esa Salminen