Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jackie Kennedy in Birkenstocks

Following the NRK TV news report on Tuesday, May 26th, announcing that I had been approved to work as a midwife, and that SAK will now start using the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) to evaluate educations outside of the EU/EØS, our local newspaper in Lillehammer ran a very short article stating the same. We had been hoping it would get a little coverage, as I am repeatedly asked by strangers and acquaintances alike if anything has changed with my work situation. We thought that a little article in the paper would allow me to avoid explaining what has happened over and over again. The little article was short and succinct and we thought that was it. 

Then a journalist called me a few days later. She had written the very first news story about my situation, about 3.5 years ago. She wanted to do a more in-depth interview for the "portrait" portion of Saturday's paper (there is no Sunday paper) when they do a profile on a local resident who is doing something different. I quickly looked up the previous Saturday's profile: a 42 year old nationally renowned female artist, who has bought an old hotel and is using it as an artist's colony, has lived and trained in Iceland and Berlin, and has just opened a new art exhibit in a new gallery in town. 

And so it came to pass that I was interviewed for the local paper, and the following Saturday the following article, awkwardly translated with the help of Google Translate, was published: 

On the front page, with picture: "Approved and Ready. American Emily Stange has lived in Lillehammer for five years and has had to contend with bureaucracy. Read about the midwife who didn't give up in GD's Saturday's portrait/profile."*

Headline: "Midwife Emily: Emily Stange is experiencing a bit unfamiliar feeling. She is optimistic and looking forward to the future. This has not been so for the last five years.

The day is five years ago. In the delivery room at at hospital in New Hampshire a happy set of parents looks at their little daughter for the first time. The mother, a yoga teacher and former Olympic athlete for the USA in kayak, still has contact with the midwife on duty that day (they are friends on Facebook). Now sitting later in a red house in Søre Ål, she tells about the birth with stars in her eyes.

- “It was such a positive and inspiring experience of a natural birth without medication. The mother was a strong woman, who knew her body well. It is a great honor that this was the last birth I attended”, says Emily Stange. Unknown to the midwife at the time, there would be an involuntary break of many years until the next time she could assist at a birth.

It is not Jacqueline Kennedy that welcomes us in the door along with a wagging four legged American blend that answers to the the name Tika. But Emily’s classic good looks mean that she must endure the comparison, though jeans, striped cotton sweater and Birkenstock shoes certainly does not match the first lady's outfit.

None of this is why many people, both in Lillehammer and elsewhere in the country, recognize 40-year-old from Søre Ål.

Her status as a (minor) national celebrity is because she has fronted the fight against authorization authorities (SAK) for healthcare professionals with education done outside the EU / EEA can work in Norway. There have been many rounds of applications and rejections, with overwhelming support by professionals, politicians and, not least, Kari and Ola Nordmann**. Words such as abuse of power, uncultured and arrogance are used.

Last week came a "turning point", as it is called in main character's native language (a phrase I did not use in my interview, neither in my native or second language). The practice should and will be changed. Education will increasingly be assessed from the total number of credits and total study time rather than the number of teaching hours.
Thus can Emily Stange, who has a nursing degree and masters in midwifery and 12 years of practice, finally use her education to work in Norway.

Thus, one would think it is an exuberant and completely happy lady who has fired up the soapstone stove this rainy day and welcomes GD for an interview.
But it is not quite so. Emily Stange thinking about, sighs tiny bit when she answers this question about how she is now:
- “It's hard to explain. I am very relieved that we (husband Erik has also been involved) can put what happened behind us. It's good to think that all the energy and effort we have put down will open the doors for many other nurses and health care workers. Meanwhile, we had the feeling of being in a fight over the last four and a half years. Thus, it is difficult to feel completely satisfied and happy”, says Emily, who is quick to add how heartwarming it has been with all the support she has received from known and unknown.
On social media, people are overwhelmingly supportive, and people from  Lillehammer congratulated the woman behind the counter at Atelier Kakao*** and told that they supported and rejoice in the authorization, which Emily says is tremendously appreciated.

The reader must not understand us to mean that there is a sullen, moping American we have before us sitting in the unique rocking chair in the bright living room, where there is no doubt that toddlers also live.
Emily Stange laughs often and happily. She doesn’t give up and serves us coffee with great serenity, in large cups on the coffee table, neither of which are A4****. It's the fact that she at a college in Minnesota a handy guy, who crafted fine furniture to the couple's home in various states. They moved over the pond in 2010 and the furniture allows the family of four (plus Tika) to feel extra homey in the house they have spent years renovating in the south of Lillehammer.
- “Some day, I want to move back to Norway”, said Erik Stange to his girlfriend. The active skier was in the country for two years the mid-90s, partly as a student at Voss folk high school.
Emily thought it sounded exciting, but put Trondheim limit to how far north they could move. When a job as a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) was in the bo for Erik, they moved on, satisfied with living in a city with ski trails and of Lillehammer size. For a nurse with many years of work experience to find a job would be the least of their problems. Or so they thought. . .

They could have moved back, something they have considered quite often as an alternative when everything around Emily's job situation was so difficult.
At the same time they felt that the time had not come to give up.
- “We have invested so much here. My husband has great job satisfaction. We thrive in Lillehammer. Kids have it well in daycare and school. We have friends, good neighbors, have renovated our home. . .”
Says Emily, and boy she completely voluntarily used the verb she hates. “Trives” (thrive)*****. Taking the short version is not easy when people ask if you thrive in Lillehammer.
- “The “Yes-we-thrive-here” version is not quite true. Mostly because of the job situation, which has been a huge financial and mental strain. But we could not stay here as long as we have if we did not enjoy it”, says Emily, and repeat the list from earlier with pluses for a good everyday life.
-“I can stand in my kitchen window***** and see my kids playing out in the garden and think about how lucky I am. Life is so good!”

Whoever is looking for a humorous and aptly satirical look at the life and realities here in the north, you can click onto Where describes Emily "The Lille-Stange’s" new life in Lillehammer, Norway. Here you can read, in detail (!), everything from Norwegian culture and daily life to Bergens language test and how to raise a Viking (series of pictures where her son Henrik is packed in layers into a "burrito-baby" to sleep outside). This is not easy to understand “over there”.
My poor blog, sighs Emily. It has not received much attention in recent years, largely because the writer thought the message became so negative about everything that happened on the job front.
- What has puzzled you most here in Norway?
Pause. Emily is among those who think about before answering.
“Russ” celebration is something she thinks is strange and not particularly positive.
- “I've also thought about Norwegians' relationship to summer vacation. Three weeks in the month of July which everyone has free and even entire departments of hospitals close. For me it's unbelievable. Meanwhile, it is also very positive that Norwegians are so protective of their free time.”

Where is home? There is uncertainty surrounding the response from the mother with two small children when we ask her to describe the feeling of having two countries.
- “We talk about “if” or “when” we will move back. But it is also a question of where home is in the USA, because we’ve lived so many different places. When we are in Minnesota, we miss Norway”, says Emily, telling that her daughter Greta on holiday in Italy missed Norwegian milk and wanted to go “home” to Lillehammer.
- “Although she was born in the United States, knows that she is American, has an American flag and cheers for the Americans in the Olympics, she is also very Norwegian. Henrik (two years), also has a US passport, but he is more Norwegian than all of us and will not recognize the United States as home. I think it is a little difficult. But it's also kind of cool. . . “

“I never liked children and babies ... “ The midwife has started to answer to why she chose this profession itself. GD journalist proposes an “always” rather “never”*******, to hearty laughter. “I always have liked children and babies, I mean!”
Actually, it's unfair to mention this little blunder, for Emily is good at speaking Norwegian. But it fosters interesting reflections on the experience of not being able to use one’s mother tongue.
- “The hardest part is that I know that I do not portray my real self. When you have to think so much to find the right words and still not be able to be precise, it is easy to feel a little silly. Besides humor difficult in another language. But it's getting better and better. Speaking Norwegian becomes easier and more natural”, says the one who is proud to have attended a parent meeting alone, almost without need for help in understanding what was happening.

Back to the question we started. What is it with the midwife profession and Emily?
 She describes the experience of being present and help when hours of pain and a lot of hard work is replaced by the joy of being able to see your baby in your arms for the first time.
- “Being able to be present at such a process is a rich moment”, she, who, trained as a nurse in Minnesota and had her first job at the neonatal intensive care at a large children's hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, explains. Then she worked on a maternity ward after a growing desire to have more contact with adults, and wanted to spend time talking with women, informing and answering the questions that arise during pregnancy.
- “The profession is an important part of my identity. It was impossible for me to think that I should start a new and higher education in Norway”.
The midwife has regained optimism, and finds it exciting to be on job hunt.
- Has it been worth the struggle for many years?
- “We shall see. I think so, when I think of everything positive that has happened in the past four and a half years. We have bilingual children, I have learned to speak another language and I have learned how strong and resilient I am. Living in another country is incredibly exciting and rich”.

Emily Stange (40)
: Raised and educated as a midwife in the United States, residing in Lillehammer.
: Recently authorized as a midwife in Norway after nearly five years of struggle.

Married with Erik. Children Greta (7) and Henrik (2). Dog Tika.********

(end of article)

 * Greta read this to me and said, "The midwife that didn't give up. When I read that I felt proud of you." To which I thought, "Ok, she's finally starting to get this."

**A Norwegian saying for “Jane and John Doe” or “the average Norwegian”.

*** The café where I’ve been working off and on since August.

**** A4 is the standard size of paper in Europe, so A4 is a Norwegian saying referring to “standard”. An A4 person is a average, standard, from the box person. People have sighed, hearing my situation as asked, “Why must bureaurcracies be so A4?” like everything has to fit neatly onto a standard form and they can’t think outside the box.

***** “Trives du her?” Norwegians ask me. “Do you thrive here?” I hate the question. Do you want the short answer? That depends on the day. On the weather. On how recently I’ve gotten a letter rejecting my education. On how empty my bank account is. On how many poopy diapers I’ve changed that day. On if I’ve been able to find quinoa at the grocery store or not. On how many days it’s rained in the past month. On how smiley my 7 year old is after spending the day outside. Or do you want the long answer?

****** The original article read that “I can stand inside and watch my kids play outside” and I thought it made me sounds like I was afraid to go out in the cold and play with my kids. Or I was this disengaged, distant mother. We specifically moved our kitchen from the front of the house to the back of the house, so that our kitchen sink looks out over our back yard. I can finish up the dishes and watch Greta and Henrik in the sandbox, sled down our little hill, pick berries, dig in the garden.

******* “Never” is aldri  “always” is alltid. So these words with complete opposite meanings can be pretty easily switched when one is not thinking and a little nervous.

******** Greta said this was her favorite line in the article.

Monday, June 15, 2015


I hope I haven't kept you in suspense for the last few weeks. As I wrote on the 19th of May,
Seeing is believing!
"Godkjenning autorisasjon"
Sykepleier og jordmor
until I'm 70 years old!
"all signs point to yes" and actually later that very afternoon my name appeared on the national registry of authorized health professionals, as a godkjent nurse and midwife. It was a little anti-climactic, following a week of suspicion and hope and signs in the right direction, to be notified via an online registry, of which I had been checking pretty obsessively all day long. Erik actually called me from Belgium to tell me he had seen my name. This was not the way I had imagined being notified.  

Fortunately, I would be able to reenact the way I had always imagined being notified, as NRK (Norwegian broadcasting news) wanted to film the opening of the official letters, which did not arrive for another three days. And since it was a long three day weekend, we actually delayed the opening of the letters--and the filming--until the following Tuesday (one week after we really knew), when the news crew arrived at our house at 9am. Talk about anti-climactic! That evening, the report aired on both the regional 7pm news and the national 9pm news! Erik had even done a kick-ass live interview on NRK radio talking about my case and what it means to many others (I declined to do any non-editable interviewing in Norwegian). So that evening, after sitting on this secret for a week, we decided it was high time we celebrate and invited friends and neighbors over, opened a few bottles of champagne, ate cake and watched the news together. 
Erik testing the lighting in our kitchen before the filming
Yes,the footage you see is a bit staged. My reaction is a reflection of some good acting genes but probably more accurately finally living out the scene that I have played over and over again in my head for the last 4 years and 7 months, and some genuine emotion of finally seeing the words in print. 

We are repeatedly asked to comment on our reaction, something that we thankfully had a week to think about. We are grateful, of course, to have this nightmare behind us. I am optimistic about the future and finally being able to work in a field where I am trained to work. We are really proud of the fact that without our efforts, well, it probably would have happened eventually, but we know we were key players in getting the credit transfer system recognized. We are really pleased this will help many other health care professionals from outside of the EU work in Norway. But, I'll be honest, we are pissed as hell that this took 4 years and 7 months, cost us an unknown amount of money, and the amount of blood, sweat and tears it took--the first two mostly Erik's and the last mostly mine--to have people in places of power (politicians, academics, institutional leaders, journalists) recognize the wrongs and the see the need to right them. I know that wasn't a proper sentence, but I don't have the energy to make it into one. You get the point. So, to open a letter that says simply "Godkjent", after all that effort, time, energy, money. . . well, it's a little deflating. 

Congratulations from Erik's colleagues
One of the nursing professors that has been such a strong and influential supporter called me to congratulate me (after sending me flowers!!!) and when I tried to express my weirdly ambivalent and not entirely happy feelings, she said, "It's like you've been sitting for exams for the last 4 years, using massive amounts of energy and adrenaline to prepare and prove yourself, and suddenly it's over." 

And so that's where I've been sitting for the last month: the fight is over. I'm approved to work. I can look for a job. It's time to move on.

Below I will provide a Google translated version of NRK's written online report.
Making the news again!
"Finally she is allowed to work"
Link to NRK news report

Finally she is allowed to work

"I am relieved and happy that I finally received authorization. Now I can finally work as a midwife here in Norway", says Emily Stange.
Waited nearly five years'
Sad for Norwegian health administration- On behalf of the family Stange I am now very happy, but on behalf of the Norwegian health administration I am sad. It has long established an uncultured in this management arm, says Kjenseth.

Nothing has changedLooking ahead

There have been many rounds of applications and discounts for Emily Stange and family. When they came to Lillehammer from Vermont in 2010, thought the job was the smallest problem.
Stange has a bachelor's degree in nursing from the American-Norwegian St. Olaf College, in addition to a master's degree in midwifery and 12 years of practice. She has also taught both nursing and medical students.
But none of the applications Emily has sent to the State Authorization for Health Personnel (SAK) has been approved. They have argued that rod education has not met the formal requirements of the law.
But now Stange can work as a midwife in Norway anyway. SAK writes:
"After a new review of your education as a midwife, we consider that you meet the requirements for certification as a midwife pursuant to the Health § 48 subsection c)."
Several parliamentarians have taken up the cause to Stange. Ketil Kjenseth (V) sits in Health Care Committee and is disappointed over the process. 

THANK Emily's husband: Parliament Politicians Ketil Kjenseth (V) has been involved in Emily case and thanks her husband Erik Stange to have documented and fought against management practices in this matter.
He believes the problem is extensive and talks about a number of queries with similar experiences as Emily.
Also the Association of Norwegian foreign students ANSA react. They believe SAK wastes with high competence.
- I am very happy at Emily's behalf and for the authorization office has done that we have recommended for a long time, and now look at ECTS (credits) instead of number of hours. Now SAK should go through all similar refusal in recent years and treat them according to the same rules, says the president of ANSA, Madeleine Mowinckel.

Study and research director at the College of Gjøvik, Gunn Rognstad has supported Stange from the start. So has also has academic staff from colleges in Hedmark, Buskerud and Vestfold. "Authorization could just as easily gotten four years ago, after taking and passing a test in national health care. The main problem all the way to an unclear understanding of the calculation of the scope of the content of education between SAK, healthcare committee and health ministry about which rules should be applied to process applicants from abroad," says Rognstad.

- "We do not want to express an opinion on individual cases, but may state that some applicants of SAK was considered to satisfy the conditions for authorization after carrying out a specified period of supervised practice", says Anne Harseth Barlow in SAK.
She says that Emily Stange recently took 12 credits in geriatrics, and that this was decisive that she was granted authorization.**
- "I'm really looking forward to working with what I can and hope the work we have done can help others to get authorization on a more timely basis", says Stange.

**I haven't blogged about my 12 credits/8 weeks of geriatric clinicals that I completed in February/March and how enlightening and educational they were to my ability to work as nurse. Perhaps I should do that someday. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

All Signs Point to Yes

Remember the Magic 8 Ball? 
You ask it a yes or no question, shake it and get a "prediction"?

My question for the last 4 years and 7 months has been, "Will I be authorized to work as a nurse and midwife in Norway?"

We , feel that the Magic 8 Ball is telling us:

On May 13th, an unexpected, but very welcome message appeared on SAKs homepage. They announced that they would now be evaluating educations from outside of the EU based on the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) instead of simply counting classroom hours. This is what we have been arguing for years that they have been doing improperly, inaccurately, irresponsibly--the message that we argued in several appeals, with support from colleges and nursing professors, nursing organizations, lawyers and telling to the media and politicians left and right. 

It appears that SAK has finally listened and will be evaluating the educations of foreign nurses with the same measuring stick that the colleges and universities in Norway measure them. 

Here is a link to an NRK news report that came out that day:
You can throw it into Google translate to get the details, but translated below is a transcript of the report that aired on a regional news broadcast that night, with a brief appearance by yours truly. 

Now SAK is changing the rules for authorization of nurses educated outside of the EU.

“The changes are based on that we are now giving great weight and credit for the entire course of study and not just classroom time, and are also looking at the total learning objectives and learning goals, ” says Anne Herseth Barlo, the director of SAK.

Now SAK will evaluate the competence of its applicants in terms of total credit hours of nurses, like the nursing educational programs in Norway do.

“On behalf of the work that has been done on this case thus far, this is very good news, because this conforms with how this whole time we have internally evaluated applicants/students here at the College in Buskerud and Vestfold, and as far as I know, throughout the college and university system throughout all of Norway,” said Heidi Kapstad, dean of the College in Buskerud and Vestfold.

Now SAK promises to reverse the decision on hundreds of applicants who have been denied and look at their application again, for the applicants who request it.

In the last 5 years, Emily Stange, with a solid American midwife education, has waited for approval.

“I am very excited. It’s going to be very nerve-wracking in the next few days when I come to check the mail,” says me.

“From what we have evaluated, and I say this on behalf of myself. . . I have signed off on Emily’s evaluation, and have gone through all of the papers, and I can’t say anything other than Emily is approved in Norway,” said Heidi Kapstad of the College in Buskerud and Vestfold.

That last line in particular is super positive, but unfortunately my dear supporter Heidi Kapstad is not the one that gets to sign off on my authorization. A powerful and influential woman she may be, and having that statement on record is huge, but SAK still remains in power. I sent and received an answer from my case manager, stating my application would be finished early this week. . . 

We are feeling very, very optimistic, and now mostly anxious about just the midwife authorization--the nursing authorization is almost certainly approved.

It is Tuesday. The mailbox is still empty. 

Monday, May 4, 2015


It is May in Norway, which means that for the next three weeks the streets are overtaken by graduating high school students dressed in matching red overalls, sweatshirts and hats, handing out mini business cards to young children, driving the streets in red vans and buses, and partying and celebrating the fact that they have not yet started their final exams but will in all likelihood graduate. Welcome to Russetid in Norway.

Russ” is one of the few Norwegian cultural phenomena that has perhaps been the most difficult for me to grasp and explain, and certainly not embrace (although, seeing that I am not 19 years old, it’s not exactly a cultural experience that I am allowed to participate in). It’s taken me 4 years of witnessing it and trying to wrap my head around it to finally be inspired enough to write about it.
Clever Russ. . . they changed the word "ferist" (cattle guard)
to "Fest" (party), and made the speed bumps
 into breasts and nipples.

Norwegian high school takes students through the age of 19, or through the 13th grade, by American standards (college is then 3 years, in comparison). The graduating students are known, during the final weeks of school, as “Russ”. Beginning in early May, the Russ begin three weeks of celebrating and partying around the country, culminating on the 17th of May. (The legal age of drinking in Norway is 18. Let’s just put that out there, in the background of all of this activity.) The 17th of May is Norway’s national holiday, and is historically a day to celebrate the children of Norway—the future of Norway, and after the sweet, low-key parade of school children through the streets of towns throughout Norway, the streets are taken over by the partying Russ, parading through town in red vans and buses, in their final send-off before entering the world of adulthood.   

The Russ are immediately recognizable by their clothing: matching red overalls and sweatshirts, and special Russ caps. (There are also black and blue Russ, which has something to do with the type of high school they attended, like a vocational high school, but in Lillehammer most Russ are red). The overalls are personalized with their name and year emblazoned down a leg—our neighbor has FRIDA* written in rhinestones, for example, and the Norwegian flag. The pants get signed by friends, much like the American yearbook, and are generally worn with the bib down. The rules are that once you start wearing the Russ clothing, you don’t wear anything else, and you don’t wash it--our babysitter showed up yesterday in her “russebukser” (Russ pants). The Russ can earn “knots” for their hats by doing silly, stupid, irresponsible or illegal activities, which must be witnessed by at least two other Russ.

I have witnessed Russ on all fours in the aisles of the grocery stores, barking like dogs;
posing in the window of the local H&M for 10 minutes, assuming various model poses every few minutes; setting up a small band in the middle of a round-about; running naked across a local bridge (some Russ confused which bridge was which, and ran—illegally--across the interstate bridge instead of the old, lesser-used, one-lane bridge). Other activities that have been reported involve large amounts of alcohol, having unprotected sex, disruptive activities in the classroom, etc. . .

Martin would like you to know that "doing a backflip
is like getting a blowjob, you lean your head back and
enjoy it 100%". Thank you, Martin, for
sharing that piece of wisdom with the children of Lillehammer.
You are a fine representative of Norway's
Top Athletic High School. May your parents be proud.
Most of the traditions are decades old. For example, Russ always have on hand little business cards, which is a little reminiscent of the US’s senior photos and yearbooks, but only a little. . .  These cards have the Russ’s name, photo, school, phone number, and a little quote that ranges from the cute and funny to the downright lewd. School children collect these cards (please don’t ask me why), and run up to the groups of Russ on the street like they are rock stars. Some children I knew had collected hundreds of these cards. I was horrified and disgusted to read some of them. What I fail to understand is why it is socially acceptable to hand out pornographic cards to young children—we’re talking about 7, 8, 9 year old kids. Or why the Russ choose to give the kids the cards with the sexual quotes on them when they are fully aware that it is the young kids who collect them—why not make two sets of cards? Or if you only have lewd cards, don’t give them to the kids?

Bettina, Julie, Stine-Marie and Katrine's bus from last year,
complete with corporate sponsor stickers, like the driving
school and the farm/garden supply store. 
 And then there are the “Russebuss” and the “Russetreff” (buses and gatherings). The Russ get together at multi-day long festivals that are held throughout the country. These gatherings can range from 5,000-15,000 students at a time, and students can travel for a few days to get there (Norway is a big country). They are a fairly typical concert-type festival—concerts late into the night by well-known Norwegian bands**, stereo competitions between vans and buses, carnival rides, prizes for the best bus, cheap food and alcohol, alcohol, alcohol. Lillehammer is host to one of these Russetreff this coming weekend, and generally has about 10,000 students from around the country. They meet at the Birkebeiner ski stadium, the only location that can “comfortably” park several thousand vehicles. The students travel and sleep in vans and buses that they have bought specifically for these three weeks. The students organize themselves in groups, earn money (or get it “sponsored” or donated by parents, employers, or local businesses), buy the buses from last years’ Russ, spiff them up, and hope to resell them again a year later. The buses are usually painted red, but can also have fantastically painted designs and themes, with the names of the members of the bus written on the side. Mind you, these buses start appearing around town in the beginning of May, and disappear at the end of May. I never see a Russebuss driving around town in, say, the middle of September.

As one might expect, the students from the wealthier neighborhoods and cities in Norway tend to spend more on their Russebuss than the students from the hicks. An article in Aftenposten last year profiled a group of young men who had been planning their bus since they started high school, and spent upwards of 300,000 NOK (approx. $40,000). They bought a tour-sized bus, and equipped it with top of the line stereo equipment. They saw it as an excellent investment and experience in financial planning.

What kind of blows my mind, is that all of this activity happens during the school year, in the weeks leading up to their final exams. The teachers dread this time of year, as the students are often distracted, exhausted, hung over or sick, but have no control over when Russ takes place. It is completely student-run, independent of the schools or communities. Parents kind of shake their heads and say, “well, I did it, too, so. . . “ There are always reports of violence and rape at various Russetreff; a local tae-kwon-do studio in Lillehammer offered a free self-defense course to young Russ women. Efforts are made to get the Russ vaccinated against various communicable diseases, as students inevitably get sick from living in close quarters with poor hygiene and run-down immune systems. Early May in Lillehammer is not guaranteed "spring" weather--it has been known to snow. All in all—fun times for all!

Many will come to the defense of the Russ and say “they’re not all bad” “a few are ruining the experience for everyone else” “not everyone spends a gazillion kroner on their bus”, which I’m sure is absolutely true. Our neighbor girl said she is not part of a Russebuss, and said she will spend a few thousand kroner on the clothing and attending the Russetreff, but coming home at night instead of camping in a van. But as an outsider, the whole experience is not one that I have come to consider a charming Norwegian rite of passage. In all honesty, I hope that we are back in the United States by the time Greta and Henrik are 19. Renting a limo and a hotel room for prom night seems pretty innocent compared to this.

*Not her real name, as our neighbor is very sweet and in my mind a very responsible Russ.
** ha ha hahahahahhah ha. . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The latest on the "jordmor sak"

Writing updates on my quest for authorization as a nurse and midwife here in Norway has become such a daunting, confusing and downright depressing task, that I have opted to avoid writing any blog updates at all, as I felt that I owed you all a professional update first and foremost.

The last 6 months have been fairly eventful, in terms of national media attention (not just for me) and some forward movement within the political system.

Last fall, more and more stories of Norwegian nursing students who were educated in Australia began to make their way into the media. These students (most of them finished with their degrees) received financing from the Norwegian government for their college educations--both in the form of scholarships (free money) and loans. Historically, Australian nursing educations have been approved by the Norwegian health professional authorization board (SAK), but suddenly, around the same time that my education was determined to be "unequal" to a Norwegian nursing education, these Australian-educated nurses were being told they too needed to repeat their entire bachelor's degree education in Norway in order to be authorized/licensed as a nurse.

The stories were crazy. . .

Two Norwegian students attended nursing school together in Australia, took almost exactly the same courses, with the exception of one course. One nurse moved back to Norway immediately upon graduation and, as they say, "timing is everything", was granted authorization. The second nurse worked for a few years, completed an additional year of study in nursing as a specialist, returned to Norway, and was told her education was unworthy and needed to repeat her entire education.

Another nurse, educated in Australia, returned to Norway and was given the same response: repeat your whole education. She, in turn, applied for licensure in Sweden. Sweden and Norway have a "Nordic agreement"--Swedish nurses automatically get authorization in Norway. It's actually a bit of a problem--so many Swedish nurses are working in Norway for better pay than Sweden is facing a nursing shortage. Especially in the summer, when Norwegian nurses want to take their 4 weeks of vacation, and Swedish nurses take over Norwegian hospitals. (I am not kidding). Anyway. . . this Australian educated nurse applied for authorization in Sweden, and was told her education was just as good as the Swedish, and after meeting a few other requirements (a nursing exam, for one), she can get Swedish authorization and therefore, Norwegian.

So how does that work exactly? That Sweden evaluates the educations to be totally equal, yet Norway evaluates the Australian education to be so deficient they need to repeat the entire three years?! 

It all comes back to SAK's methods of evaluating and comparing credit hours between the Norwegian/European system and the non-European system. Norway counts all out-of-class hours in its "grand total" of study hours, while the non-European system only reports in-class lecture hours. You think this would be a simple problem to solve, as there are more than enough formulas and documents out there explaining how to compare these two credit systems. But, SAK has chosen to remain willfully ignorant and avoids any questions that directly address this issue.

Many nurses had their educations evaluated, were told they needed to complete anywhere from 12-24 weeks of clinical practice (unpaid, supervised), generally in areas of geriatrics, psychiatry and home health, or medical/surgical nursing. After completing this praksis, they resubmitted their applications and were then told "rules have changed" and they would need to repeat their entire education.

So, as these stories began coming out in the media, we finally begin getting support from various organizations--an international student organization for students who study abroad (ANSA) (as many of these nurses were studying abroad) and the Norwegian organization that evaluates and approves foreign degrees (NOKUT), to name two. The president of ANSA wrote a lovely editorial supporting me and others in my situation, and even had as a televised debate with the head of SAK. SAK became more and more defensive about their evaluation methods.

Erik, in the meantime, for the past year has been meeting and writing various members of Parliament on the Health Care Committee and engaging journalists in the story. A Facebook "support" group was formed for all of us who have been refused authorization--now totaling 90+ members, with our ringleaders being primarily the president of the student study abroad group (ANSA) and my dear husband, due to his deep involvement, knowledge and experience in the bullshit of my case, and a few of the of the really pissed off Australian educated Norwegian nurses, who desperately want to come home and put their degrees to work.

In February, came the first breakthrough. An American-educated Norwegian nurse (with 20 years work experience in the US) received authorization after she had a Norwegian college evaluated her American nursing education and deemed it jevngod "evenly good", or equal, to a Norwegian education. Interestingly, ironically and infuriatingly enough, this was the EXACT SAME Norwegian college that evaluated MY education, ALSO deemed it jevngod, who ALSO recommended that I be authorized as a nurse, but whose evaluation was then essentially ignored by the Health professional appeals board last May (the board that supposedly "knows better" and can override SAK)!!

About a month later, another breakthrough. This time, a non-Norwegian Australian educated nurse received authorization after a second Norwegian college evaluated his education and deemed it jevngod. Just as interesting, ironic, and infuriating (you guessed it) this same college deemed my own education jevngod several years ago, but their evaluation was tossed out as it was considered to have been "privately engaged" in my case.

But, all in all, these last two cases are extremely promising for me. The two aforementioned colleges have rewritten statements and letters of support declaring my education jevngod, along with two more evaluations. As of April 17th, these evaluations and my sixth application for authorization as a nurse and midwife were back in the hands of the powers-that-be at SAK.

Will keep you updated! Wish us luck!