Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Starting Specialist Training

This is the continuation of my previous posts on starting a career as a medical doctor in Sweden. Today’s post is about my experiences in applying for Specialist Training (ST) in Sweden.

While I was doing my Practical Training (PT), I started applying for jobs. I was interested in continuing to work at the same vårdcentral that I did my PT, but because VG region had temporarily stopped recruiting ST doctors, I was told by my manager that I will not have a chance to continue there as an ST soon after PT. Moreover, Socialstyrelsen (Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare) had decided to roll out an additional requirement called BT for some foreign doctors. Doctors educated outside of Sweden who have not done their 18 months rotating internship (called AT or Allmantjanstgöring) within Sweden would have to undergo a training called Bastjänstgöring (BT). This requirement would apply starting July 2021. BT is a one year long training containing rotating internships in primary care, medicine, surgery, psychiatry and possibly other optional subjects. Since BT would be rolled out for the first time in 2021, there would only be a few positions available all over the country. The present status of BT positions at VG Region can be read here. Most foreign educated doctors will now have to go through the BT channel in order to go on and become a specialist.

It was February 2021. For me, the two possible career pathways were research and medical practice. In my case, if I should continue working as a medical doctor, the best way forward was choose a speciality and join specialist training there. For me to start the specialist training, I have to either get accepted to an ST position before July 2021, or do a BT first and then apply for ST. I heard at that time that it was possible for employers to offer you a ‘combined’ BT + ST, where you have to finish all parts of your BT within two years of joining ST. I investigated about this, but it looked as if no employer was giving such a combined employment at that time. I learnt from my friends that there was some confusion among the authorities regarding how BT should be structured and how often and how many positions should be offered. When I was looking for jobs in February 2021, no job vacancies for BT were advertised (eventually in May 2021, they advertised just 25 positions, and the earliest one could start BT was in November 2021).

It was hard to get an ST position in any speciality without having an experience of working as an underläkare (junior doctor) in the same speciality for a few months. There were very few ST positions opening up in VG region then, partly because of the temporary halt in recruiting ST doctors in family medicine. So, when I saw an advertisement for ST in radiology at Sahlgrenska, I just went in and applied in one go, without thinking too much about it. I also applied for two postdoc positions and I was not called for the interview for one of them, and I got rejected for the other because the position required that I teach in Stockholm. I was not interested in traveling to Stockholm every two weeks, so I gave up that job offer. I also applied for over ten temporary positions as underläkare in primary care (vårdcentral) in and around Gothenburg, but I was not called in for an interview. I was getting slightly frustrated at this point, so I planned that I would take up some volunteering project or simply take rest until I get a suitable job or BT. For those looking for jobs now, all current job vacancies with VG Region as the employer can be found here.

It was March 2021. On a fine Monday, I went through my work email and was surprised to find out that I am called in for an interview for ST in radiology. They had sent me the email a few days ago, but I had failed to see it on time. The interview was scheduled for the next day. With zero time to prepare for the interview, I would now have to get ready without any pre-reading. I had no previous experience working in radiology either. I liked radiology because it is a broad and general subject, it is similar to doing research in terms of having to read and discuss cases and it gives me possibility to work closely with clinicians and patients from all departments. However, I was thinking that, with my present CV, I would not qualify for this competitive position.

The interview happened on Skype, in Swedish, with two interviewers, my boss and study rector. I was told by the interviewer that they wouldn’t ask me any subject specific questions, because they expect me to learn the job on the go, and they do not always expect their specialist trainees to have any previous experience working in radiology. This was comforting for me, because this is not the case in many other specialities, particularly the surgical ones. During the interview, I got to talk about myself, my reasons for choosing radiology, my hobbies, my future plans, areas I am weak at, challenges I faced after coming to Sweden, a person who really influenced me, reasons for volunteering (at Wikipedia), how I cope up with stress, hobbies I enjoy doing, willingness to work during off hours, interesting things I learned at vårdcentral, details about the research I did for my PhD and so forth. I was told that the references I named in my CV will be contacted, and I will get a decision about my selection in one or two weeks.

In around two weeks, my boss rang me up on phone to inform that I have been chosen for ST in radiology. The starting salary was 40,000 SEK before tax. For those like me who have a PhD, the salary is 4000 SEK more, amounting up to 44,000 SEK per month. In addition, one can earn more by encashing the hours spent doing night shifts, weekend shifts and overtime work.

I started at the radiology department in Mölndal on 14th June 2021, just two weeks before rules regarding BT came into effect. Coincidentally, I also received my medical license from Socialstyrelsen on the same day.

Earlier posts in this series:

  1. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: PhD admission
  2. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Learning Swedish
  3. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Medical license exam
  4. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Practical exam
  5. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Practical training

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