Courses to become Operatore Socio Sanitario (OSS) – (health worker)

To become a health worker, operatore socio-sanitario or OSS, it is necessary to follow a course and obtain the qualification. In Italy, the courses are organized by many public and private entities. On this page, you will find more information on the OSS courses.

The health worker, operatore socio-sanitario or OSS in Italian, is the person who carries out basic health care for the elderly, people at the end of life, and with physical and/or mental health problems.

In particular, the OSS is responsible for helping the patient:

  • to dress, wash, move and eat
  • in medical therapy: making sure the patient takes the necessary medicines at the right times
  • doing simple medication ​(if necessary)
  • checking the temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
  • doing first aid if the patient feels unwell
  • keeping the spaces clean (sanitization, sterilization, etc.)

The OSS has a very important job that must be chosen carefully because it involves giving direct assistance to people who are not well and who need care for many hours.

Remember that the work of the OSS is different from the work of the nurse, as the skills needed are different.

To work as an operatore socio sanitario, you need to attend a course. These courses are called “corsi OSS” or “corsi di formazione OSS”.

The courses are generally organized by the regions or other public bodies (ASL, province, hospitals, etc.). In this case, the courses are free or have a low registration fee.

There are also private courses, but the cost is higher and ranges from 1,000 to 3,000 euros. If you attend a private course, also remember that to obtain a valid qualification, the institution must have been recognized (or accredited) by the region or province.

In order to enroll in the courses, it is generally necessary to:

  • be at least 17 years old at the time of registration
  • have finished scuola media and have obtained licenza media

Furthermore, foreign citizens must have:

  • Good knowledge of the Italian language
  • A valid permesso di soggiorno (residence permit)
  • If the qualification was taken abroad, it must be recognized in Italy

All OSS training courses are at least 1000 hours in total, but the exact duration varies according to the place that organizes it. Some courses are full-time, while others are in the evening and/or on the weekend for people who have less time.

The topics taught may vary according to the courses, but usually are:

  • Social and health assistance
  • Hygiene, prevention, and health education
  • Psychological support
  • Basic technical knowledge for rehabilitation

After the lessons, the course also includes a practical internship (tirocinio). During the tirocinio, it is possible to have work experience together with a tutor. The tirocinio is organized in hospitals, facilities for the elderly, in patients’ homes, and other facilities.

In the end, it is necessary to pass a final exam, consisting of a written and a practical test. Students who pass the exam, receive the qualification which is recognized in Italy and also in the countries of the European Union.

Please remember that course attendance is mandatory. If you are absent for too many hours, you will not be able to take the final exam. You will find more information about this when you register, but usually, it is not possible to be absent for more than 10% of lessons and 10% of internship hours.

OSS training courses are many and are organized by many public and private bodies. If you are interested in registering in a course in your city, you can do an online search by visiting:

Note: some institutions make a selection to choose the students, but it is often a simple interview.

After obtaining the qualification, the operatore socio-sanitario (OSS) can work in different places.

The OSS works in public or private facilities such as:

  • Hospitals
  • facilities for the elderly
  • nursing homes (like residenze sanitarie assistenziali or R.S.A.)
  • other facilities that offer services for people in need of assistance
  • at the homes of patients (or their family members who are treating them)

To work for a public facility, it is necessary to pass a public competition (concorso pubblico). Instead, to work in a private facility, hiring is direct, through an interim agency or a cooperativa, and takes place with an interview (colloquio).

The working hours of the OSS are organized according to shifts that can be in the morning, afternoon, and depending on your contract at night, weekends and holidays.

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