An advanced student of veterinary medicine may have the opportunity to obtain a temporary right to act as a substitute veterinarian in Finland even before graduation (so-called bachelor's right). This right and its acquisition are regulated in detail in the Act on Access to and Pursuit of the Profession of Veterinary Surgeon (29/2000) and its supplementary regulation (MMM 19/15). The conditions for obtaining the right are different for those students who study in Finland than for those who study in other countries.
Working as a substitute for a veterinarian
A student with a temporary right to practice can work as a substitute for a veterinarian. For a person who is still undergraduate, an employer's guidance and supervision are particularly necessary. Therefore, a student cannot work as a self-employed veterinarian or start their own practice.
A student who has a temporary right to practice can also hold a state or municipality position on a temporary basis. However, the possibility of a person studying in a country other than Finland to work, for example, as a substitute for a municipal veterinarian, may be limited by the fact that they do not have the necessary knowledge. The post of municipal veterinarian often includes, in addition to providing veterinary services, official duties that require familiarity with Finnish veterinary care legislation and administrative procedures.
A student who has received the right to practice the veterinary profession as a substitute for a veterinarian does not have the right to use the title of veterinarian, veterinary doctor, or a veterinary surgeon. When practicing, a student can use their degree supplemented by the title of the position held (e.g. officiating municipal veterinarian Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine Jane Smith, or substitute to a veterinary surgeon Jane Smith). The Finnish degree eläinlääketieteen kandidaatti, ELK, can only be achieved at a Finnish university. Students at foreign universities should not use this degree or abbreviation. All in all, a client must not be misled about the professional status of the person providing care.
Students with a temporary right to practice veterinary profession are subject to supervision according to the Act on Access to and Pursuit of the Profession of Veterinary Surgeon and are registered in the national veterinary register. An employer's task is to ensure that the student has a valid temporary right to practice, and to guide and supervise the student acting as a veterinarian's substitute in their work.
Obtaining the right – Studying in Finland
A person studying for a licentiate in veterinary medicine in Finland gets the right to practice the veterinary profession as a substitute for a veterinarian directly by law after completing the credits stipulated in the legislation. To receive a temporary right to practice requires that the person has completed a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine (ELK) in Finland and a certain amount of necessary credits of a licentiate in veterinary medicine. The student must have successfully completed:
- All compulsory courses intended to be completed during the five academic years of the veterinary medicine education program.
- Clinical practical training (clinical work and teaching of veterinary care given in connection with it).
- Practical training in slaughterhouse supervision.
- Five continuous working days familiarizing with the practice of a municipal veterinarian in Finland ("municipal veterinarian practice").
The right is granted for three years. There are no requirements for the student's language skills or citizenship. The student does not need to apply for a temporary right to practice from the Finnish Food Authority. The faculty of veterinary medicine is required to notify the Food Authority of the students who have obtained the right, in order for them to be registered in the national veterinary register. The student is automatically charged a fee for obtaining the right. The fee currently stands at 50 euro.
Applying for the right – Studying elsewhere
Under certain conditions, Finnish Food Authority can grant a person studying to become a veterinarian in another European Union or European Economic Area member state the right to temporarily practice the veterinary profession in Finland. Obtaining such a right always requires an application to the Food Authority and a positive decision by the Food Authority. Students studying outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland area cannot be granted a temporary right to practice.
The conditions for obtaining the right are:
- The applicant must be studying veterinary medicine in another EU or EEA country or in Switzerland.
- The applicant must be a citizen of an EU or EEA state or Switzerland, or a spouse of such a citizen, or have refugee status in these countries.
- The applicant's studies must be equivalent to the studies that a student in Finland has completed upon receiving the same right.
- The applicant must have completed a five continuous working days familiarization with the practice of a municipal veterinarian in Finland ("municipal veterinarian practice").
- There must be a specific justified reason for granting the right.
The application for a temporary right to practice is free-form. The application must state what the application concerns, the applicant's name and contact information, and a specific justified reason for granting the temporary right to practice. The specific justified reason is a justification – related to either the applicant's or the applicant's employer's circumstances – that the applicant ought to be granted the temporary right to practice. The most commonly stated specific reason is an employer's statement that, despite its efforts, it has not found another substitute for its veterinarian.
The following documents must be attached to the application:
- A document proving the applicant's citizenship (for example, a passport).
- Study register extract (a document listing the completed study credits).
- A certificate that the municipal veterinarian practice has been completed.
- Documents supporting the existence of a specific justified reason, as needed.
The attached documents must be presented as originals or officially certified copies. Documents cannot be copied while waiting at the Food Authority. Officially certified copies are available from DVV and in many countries from public notaries. The application must also be accompanied by Finnish or Swedish translations of those supporting documents that are written in other than Nordic languages or English, translated by an official translator. The application is sent by letter to the address: Ruokavirasto, PL 200, 00027 Ruokavirasto, Finland
The equivalence of the applicant's studies is assessed by the Food Authority on a case-by-case basis. If necessary, the University of Helsinki's assessment of the equivalence of studies is requested. In the evaluation, attention is paid to two points, to the scope of studies and the amount of clinical practice. The studies of those studying at the universities of Tartu and Uppsala are sufficient when the student has completed all the five-year studies according to the university's study plan. Those studying at Jelgava University are required to take additional clinical training courses in addition to five years of studies.
Language skills are not a condition for the temporary right to practice, i.e. the right can also be obtained without demonstrating Finnish or Swedish language skills. The employer must ensure that the veterinarian has sufficient language skills for their work. Municipal employers in particular require either Finnish or Swedish skills or both. Finnish Food Authority charges a fee for a positive decision on the temporary right to practice, which is currently 211 euro. The fee for a negative decision is 105.50 euro
Extending the duration of the right to practice
The temporary right to practice is granted for a maximum of three years. For a specific justified reason, the Finnish Food Authority can extend the three-year deadline. The specific justified reason must be independent of the person concerned, for example a delay in studies due to illness. A delay in studies due to the fact that the person has worked a lot cannot be considered a specific justified reason.
An extension of the duration of the temporary right to practice is applied for with a free-form application addressed to the Food Authority. The application must be filed before the expiration of the previous temporary right. The applicant must provide support for the existence of a specific justified reason in their application, e.g. a medical certificate.
Finnish Food Authority charges a fee for the decision to extend the validity period of the temporary right to practice. The fee currently is 91 euro.