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Changes to Norwegian Doctor Trainee System

Written by Berit Bringedal

The Norwegian Health Minister has proposed significant changes to the 60-year-old poll system used for placing medical students into mandatory training. Currently, medical school graduates must perform an 18-month internship to become fully licensed physicians. These internships are assigned by lottery. Number 1 can choose freely between all positions and the last number must take what is available, but all students are guaranteed a position within six months. Proponents believe that the current poll system ensures that all medical specialties and all geographic areas are covered and that the best qualified doctors are distributed randomly among specialties and regions.

The current system, however, has recently raised concerns because the number of individuals in the lottery has grown by 50 percent each year between 2006 and 2009. Fifty-five percent of the individuals in the lottery are international students, and there are now 50 percent more people in the lottery than there are training positions available. As a result, it is increasingly difficult for the government to guarantee a six-month maximum waiting time to obtain a trainee position.

The Health Minister’s proposal would qualify doctors directly after the six years of medical school and allocate the further specialized supervised training positions through applications instead of a lottery. The Minister emphasized that an application process will lead to more motivated doctors and that systems will have to be put in place to ensure the availability of positions and coverage of doctors in different areas. The goal is to have the poll system replaced by next year.

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