Friday, January 28, 2011

Breaking news from: Statens autorisasjonskontor for helsepersonell

Huh? you ask. What does that mean?

It means: "Norway thinks Emily's 4 year nursing degree from a private liberal arts college with Norwegian ties and 14 years of work experience isn't good enough to work in Norway as a nurse". That's what it means.

Ok, deep breath. It is actually the "Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel" (known as SAFH), and I have been waiting to hear from them for the last 3 months. I spent several months this fall preparing two very fat, thorough applications for both a nursing license and a midwife license. For any American nurse who might be attempting this in the future, I will provide for you a list of what I included in my nursing application, and note: every copy must be a certified copy:

  • copy of US Passport
  • Professional resume
  • copy of college diploma
  • 3 page detailed course curriculum description of undergraduate nursing classes, prepared by my college, not by me (as requested by SAFH)
  • college academic transcript
  • letter documenting NCLEX-RN results
  • RN license verification
  • copy of UT RN license
  • copy of NH RN license
  • copy of VT RN license
  • work testimonial from Utah 
  • job description from first RN job as a nurse in a highly specialized and respected Newborn Intensive Care Unit at a Children's hospital, where I worked for 5 years (oooh, bitterness coming out)
  • 33 pages of certificates documenting Continuing Education seminars for the last 8 years (yikes!)
 So, this is what SAFH responded with, and thankfully, there is an appeal process:
1) my degree is shorter than a Norwegian nurses education. They are educated for 3 years, and they claim I was educated for 2. Obviously, they did not understand that my nursing education was in fact 4 years. I also did not include any of my graduate school nursing education in my nursing application, as I included that in the midwife application, but that is an additional two years. 
2) They claim that my work experience does not make up for my lack of education, especially since my work experience was with babies. They failed to recognize that I also worked as an RN with women for 3 years in Labor and Delivery. 
3) That I must complete the following practical student experiences: 6 weeks in psychiatry, 8 weeks in med/surg, and 8 weeks in adult nursing. 
4) A 3 week foreign-nurses course (knew about that one, so I wasn't surprised)
5) Must take the nursing exam!

I am not ashamed to say that I cried for hours after receiving this letter and painstakingly translating the 4 pages of information. There are so many reasons why it just plain old sucks so much. It sucks to be told we don't think you're good enough. I feel like I had a top-notch education, and had even more impressive work experience, so that is really hard to swallow. I am also rather embarrassed (but will admit to you, dear readers, because that it what I am here for) that I had this arrogant Pro-America attitude swell up inside of me, and I felt like screaming, "Who do you think you are?? I'm from the f*@%ing United States of America! You can't do this to me!" But, you know what? They are doing it to me. And this American feels like I was punched in the gut.

It also just sucks because now I feel like we were really naive coming here, just assuming because I'm a midwife, they use midwives. We have similar educations and responsibilities that everything would be easy, smooth-sailing, and I'd have a job in no time. All I have to do is learn Norwegian. It's as easy as that! And I feel like, all I'm asking for is permission to work! Don't you see, Norway? I'm trying to lend you my skills and experience! Stop making it so difficult to contribute to your society!  And honestly, now I feel like we're stuck! We're here. We uprooted our entire family, home, possessions under this false assumption that I, too, could work and continue to further my career. I think that's what hurts the most. 

A friend asked: What's your Plan B?  Well, I'll submit an appeal, after consulting with a number of people, and include more information about my years of education and work experience, and I'll dig a little deeper and try to find information about student summer work experiences I did with adults and med/surg patients. . .  

In the meantime, I'm in a language class. I don't know enough Norwegian to do any of those clinical assignments anyway, so I might as well keep crawling forward. Maybe something will work out in the meantime, maybe not. Will I do a half years worth of nursing clinicals, to prove my worth, only to then take a nursing exam, and then and only then be able to submit my midwife application, when who knows what will be denied or questioned or refused with my midwife education and 6 years of experience? 

I don't know. I just don't know. 


  1. Oh Emily, it sucks. It really does. Do you think you could find work as a doula or a LC or childbirth educator in private practice? Is there enough of an English speaking population to want those services?

  2. J'en ai marre! It means - I am fed up! - in an impolite way. The French (Belgians especially) like to be very formal. When I am feeling out of my element - it comes in handy. aka frequently!
    so how's yoga? :o)

    Emily D

  3. Oh Emily.. I am so sorry to hear this.. although not surprised... Hang in there.. I wish I knew some people to hook you up with for advice.. (I will start brainstorming..) Keep asking the questions.. keep trying to make connections. THIS is the suckiest part of moving abroad. ...
    I came over with a double major & minor.. & was offered jobs delivering newspapers..& cleaning toilets. That is a HUGE problem with Norway.. the amount of talent that they just seem to throw away. Keep plugging away... & if language is your biggest problem. look into getting a private tutor to get things going.
    I am Here if you need an understanding shoulder. :-)

  4. Ack, what a headache! But like Tressa, I'm not at all surprised. It sounds to me like you're eminently qualified to do what you're asking them to let you do. But it doesn't surprise me even one little bit that they don't think you're good enough for them.

    Sorry. This is probably not what you want to hear, but yours is far from the first American education they've turned their precious noses up at. I have a BA from Smith, for God's sake and they STILL sent me back to freaking high school, before they'd let me into one of their Universities.

    This is just the way it is here. It sucks a little bit---no, make that 'great big bit'---that you didn't know this before you came. But, it is what it is. They're going to make you jump through every hoop they've got. And then they're going to make you jump backwards through them sing Norwegian folk songs, just because they can.

    For what it's worth, (and slap me if I'm wrong on this, I haven't read all the way through your archives, so I don't know how far you've come) but, if you're still in the process of learning Norwegian, and are dealing with all of these formalities in English...I honestly think that might be a huge part of their reluctance to approve your license. And really, wouldn't these months of hoop jumping and practical experience completing be invaluable language mastering time?

    Sorry. Again, I realize this probably isn't what you want to hear. I'm just trying to find the other, slighly less stinging, angle to look at.

    I have an aquaintance here (I'm in Bergen, by the way) who's currently in the process of trying to get her midwifery certification approved to work in Norway. She's from Australia, and as far as I've understood it, hasn't worked at all since moving here 10 (maybe?) years ago. I know the hospital hired her on as a part-time nurse while she continued to go through the process. I don't know if she would be of any help to you, but if you want to talk to her let me know (follow a link to my blog), and I'd be happy to try and hook you two up.

    I'm originally from SLC and have a soft spot in my heart for anyone else who's lived there. So, I wish you well, and I hope you can get this sorted in a reasonably managable amount of time.'s gonna take some time....

  5. Oh, you poor thing! Do they know you got the Presidential Scholarship to St. Olaf, were top in our class...miles smarter than 1/2 of us! I'm so sorry this is so hard for you...doesn't sound like it's unique, so don't take it personally. Imagine what people from less advanced countries experience coming to the US? I've heard of doctors cleaning toilets in the US. I hope you can enjoy being with little Greta and that Erik can "bring home the bacon" for a while. Love you! Thinking of you often and hope you get an uncharacteristically expeditious appeal.

  6. I'm surprised with that amount of documentation they still had the nerve to say that. Don't give up!

    I'm sure you have already thought of this, but just in case. Make sure they aren't counting your American college credits as equivalent to ECTS (European college credits). I think 2 American credits equal to 4 ECTS. In Norway a typical college semester is about 30 ECTS.

  7. Thanks to everyone for their support! I've been quite amazed by the number of visitors this post has brought in. Would love to hear from other readers. . .
    @American and @JEDA: I guess it's a little comforting to know I'm not alone with my American education being viewed as subpar.
    @Aurora. I've discovered that, too. I'm going to make sure they are counting it properly.

  8. Its not that American education is viewed as is the lack of a central certification authority I think. As I understand it, in the US, universities are not accredited by a central government body, but by a huge number of regional, national, and professional accreditors. While that system may seem intuitive to those who have grown up with it, it seems hugely complicated and confusing to a national accrediting body that normally just looks at the accrediting body in the country the applicants degree is from. US applications probably end up being processed in a similar manner to other countries without a central standards organization.

    Add to that the fact that SAFH had a HUGE scandal this summer, where the woman running it turned out to have faked her entire CV and all her credentials (I am not kidding). And they are being investigated for certifying hundreds of cases of health personnel with fake documents, including suspicions of corruption among the certifying personnel...

    It means everyone working there is going to be ultra-careful and nitpicky for while I am afraid.