Nursing in Germany: Elderly Care Home or Hospital?

Once you decide to work as a nurse in Germany, your recruiting agency will ask you what type of workplace you want to choose. Possibilities include hospitals, elderly care homes, and other care facilities. Determining which employer is best for you is an individual decision. It’s worth taking into account some general characteristics of each type of workplace:


Elderly Care Homes (Pflegeheim/ Altenheim/ Seniorenheim/ Seniorenrezidenz)


  • Your patients, who are referred to as „Bewohner“ in the German language („residents“), are elderly people living in the care home;
  • You take care of the same people, as there is no rotation among the residents. This gives you an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the residents;
  • Older patients often suffer from various diseases, including dementia. Speaking German communicatively is crucial to succeeding in this job;
  • Your schedule is often predictable, which can be helpful when you need to coordinate taking care of your children and your work;
  • In Elderly Care Homes, „geriatric helpers“ work alongside nurses. Likely, many of your colleagues won’t be fully qualified nurses, which is a different setup than in a hospital;
  • A lot of tasks involve basic care (in German: „Grundplege“) which means you have to be comfortable with these types of duties;
  • Potentially the work can be less hectic and technical than in a hospital. Naturally, this doesn’t change the fact that it is a hard job, which is challenging physically (as there is a lot of physical lifting of patients), as well as mentally (consoling patients touched by dementia). 


Hospital (Krankenhaus)


  • There are various departments, which means the character of work will differ depending on where exactly you will be working;
  • In many cases, the patients will be changing. You don’t take care of the same people as in an Elderly Care Home;
  • Compared with an Elderly Care Home job, it has a technical side to it. As an example, you will be giving injections, infusion, and performing various other nursing tasks;
  • There might be a potential to change the hospital’s department or sometimes even work in various ones, which can be a mentally stimulating and ambitious way of working;
  • A lot of hospitals in Germany need nurses for the Intensive Care Unit. Your prior experience in that unit is highly valued;
  • Overall, the salary is usually higher than in an Elderly Care Home;
  • German language B2 is the entry minimum, but in a hospital’s environment, communicative German language skills are a must; 
  • …and so is the ability to learn quickly. Your supervisor and colleagues will be explaining your responsibilities to you in German (not English), and if you can’t understand them, it will cause you a lot of stress;
  • If you can speak German very well, the job can be rewarding. However, it is still a high-stress work environment, so there is nothing more important than speaking and understanding German to succeed in this workplace.


It is crucial to understand these characteristics are only a general description of differences between Elderly Care Homes and Hospitals in Germany. Generalizations about these differences can be very often misleading. There is certainly no „one fit for all“ because the focus of the work differs in these two types of workplaces. In our experience, there are nurses who thrive in Elderly Care Homes and would not want to work at a Hospital, and vice versa.


Some nurses believe that the difference between caring for elderly patients (in an Elderly Care Home) and sick patients (in a Hospital) is not as fundamental as that between working in a particular hospital’s unit and the hospital’s operating theatre. This feedback also connects to another aspect of choosing between the two. Each workplace is structured differently, and your job interview is the best opportunity to ask the employer questions about what it is like in their facility.


We wish you many satisfying nursing job opportunities! And if you want to prepare for an online nursing job interview, drop us a quick message at We would be more than happy to help you think of the right questions to ask the employer during the interview so that you can make an informed choice of an employer which is right for you.


Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash


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