Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Here's what happened. . .

In my Everything-Falls-Into-Place dream, I walk into my meeting with the SAFH official, and he says, apologetically and graciously, “I looked over your nursing application that my underlings denied, and considered your well-presented points, and have overruled them. You are now certified to work as a nurse. I would have emailed you this information, but wanted to tell you this in person.”

That was my dream meeting, and it didn’t happen. I’m not sure what my nightmare meeting would have been, but it was pretty darn close to the reality meeting that we had last Thursday in Oslo.

Erik and I took the 2.5 hour train ride to Oslo, arriving a few hours early. I rehearsed my argument/speech/conversation on the way, and we discussed our tactics as we walked through Oslo.  If he says this, I’ll say this. . .

But I wasn’t expecting his opening statement (nor was I expecting the western Norwegian dialect, making me look like a deer in headlights. I also had rehearsed saying, “Excuse me, but I had hoped we could talk in English because there are some technical terms that I just don’t know yet. . .). Anyway, he said, “So. . . you’re here to discuss your midwife application, right? Because the time to register a complaint on your nursing application is over. That application is dead.”

Erik told me later his heart sunk to his stomach with this remark. Not a great way to start off a meeting. I wasn’t quite so sunken, but rather annoyed. We had made it very clear in our email exchanges that we first and foremost wanted to discuss the nursing application, in hopes of avoiding filing a formal complaint. We pointed this out, and he diplomatically said, “you can file the complaint, and include the emails, and state you want the complaint time extended. And if we deny that, you can complain again.”

This was his refrain for the entire 50 minute meeting: you can reference that and put it in the formal complaint. And if we deny the complaint, we’ll send it to the higher up complaint people, and you can file another complaint.

And that was that. He was not in a position to reverse any decisions, at least not on-the-spot, and he was very clearly a by-the-books guy. We were so hoping—believing--that once we could talk face to face with someone, we could reason with them; “look at these degrees, look at my work experience, let me tell you what I’ve done, let me tell you what I want to do, and then tell me why this doesn’t work!” But there was none of that. Every point we raised was met with bureaucratic indifference.

It’s hard to explain what my first reactions were leaving that meeting. I was disappointed, yes. I was shell-shocked, but on the other hand, not at all surprised. I will admit that I went into the bathroom to change back into my wool long underwear under my cute skirt that I had so carefully chosen to portray professionalism and individuality, and I did not cry in the solitude of the bathroom, but was instead mentally selling our house, packing our boxes and moving back to the US. I was completely disillusioned.

Seventy-nine hours and several tearful conversations later, I will say this: we are not packing our bags, and this is, in part, why not: we can’t go back to what we had. (I don’t think I can have two colons in one sentence, but I just did). We had wrapped up our time as grad students (me employed) and life must move on. So the reality of our life back in the US would be this: Erik would fight against hundreds of other applicants to get a post-doc, and be underpaid and working 60+ hours a week, only to have to move on again in a few years to another post-doc. Midwives in the US deliver 10% of the babies; if I could find a job in the same area as Erik’s job, I’d also be working a full time job of 50+ hours a week, nights, weekends, etc. Even my own 90% position of 36 hours a week at my old job no longer exists.

In Norway, Erik (officially) works 37.5 hours a week. Midwives deliver something like 90% of the babies. Their full time work week is 36 hours a week.

Looking at the big picture, the hoops seem worth it. Looking long term, the hoops seem worth it. Looking at our home, our thriving daughter, our community, the hoops seem worth it. But looking at every single individual hoop. . . that’s when I feel like packing my bags. 


  1. Emily,

    This is SO disapointing and I'm very sorry to hear this news. Right now I am just writing to commiserate with you. I still think you can overcome this, but unfortunately, I do not know the words to take the sting and fury out of having to deal with the "bureaucraticly indifferent, by the book type of person who isn't even in a position to MAKE an independant decision, yet relishes saying 'no'". There surely must be a special circle of hell for folks like that...
    I'm sure you have plenty of folks to help you brainstorm and stragegize, but if you want to add another to the list, let me know.
    Good luck and hang in there, we're rooting for you!!!

  2. Hi Emily, Sorry to hear this, especially as we have some tax stuff to take up with the Norwegian government and I am afraid I will get the same reaction. Anyway, I hope you finally get this straightened out. Somehow. Good luck!

  3. SAFH unfortunatly had a huge, huge scandal in 2010. It mainly hit the woman in charge, but it came with strong suspicions that they've been certifying hunderds of unqualified healthcare personel. As far as I know, investigations are still ongoing.

    So if there is any agency that don't do reason, its them. They can't. Neither reason, common sense or compassion. Because they've literally got the corruption investigators walking around looking for the _least sign_ of a certification not being totally by tthe book.

    Here is a link to an article about the scandal. Not the references to "cleansing SAFH" and prosecutions.:


    I know that doesn't make it any easier, but I thought it'd illustrate why the people working there can't do anything except follow the rules as written.

  4. I'm sorry, Emily. And I get the problems with going back, but it doesn't make staying automatically rosy! I felt so sorry for you when I read about you changing your clothes in the bathroom - what a good metaphor for shedding off your expectations.

    I had an experience a bit like this once (although not nearly as much was at stake!) We had been here for 3 mo. and I didn't know that the tunnels had cameras in them. I went 83 km in a 70 zone and was fined over 2000 kr!!! I couldn't believe it. I got all dressed up and planned to walk into the police office and tell them how I was a new immigrant, didn't know about the cameras, won't ever do it again, etc. - you know, PLEAD my case. I walked in and before I could even get a word out the man said: Were you the one driving the car? "Yes". Ok. Sign here please. "but ..." Sign here please.

    I usually think Norwegians don't have any rules (no "keep off the grass" signs, for instance), but man, they get pretty strict and serious when it comes to THE WAY IT IS.

    For the record, I'm still in the "reinvent myself" stage when it comes to my role here in this country. But I think I'm more ok with that now! :)

  5. Oh, Emily! The frustration. I feel for you, I really do. Sometimes I really get the feeling that norway is just for norwegians and these rules are made to stop outsiders from staying, but good for you, you are able to see past all the crap and carry on jumping through those hoops they keep on placing in front of us.

  6. @Jan: I have heard about the scandal, and I'm sure it's contributing in some ways to the handling of this case. I'm guessing it's making them be incredibly "by the books" and not using reason or common sense in certain cases. My case will go next to the Appeals board, where perhaps I might find some sympathy. If not, I am becoming more OK with the need to repeat a few months of basic nursing care. If anything, it would be a great opportunity to learn the medical system and practice some more Norwegian. Never a bad thing. On the other hand, if I *didn't* have to do that. . . also not a bad thing.

  7. Hi Emily. I'm months behind in commenting here but I wanted to tell you how incredibly indignant and irritated I feel on your behalf because of this MAJOR BS you're having to endure. It makes absolutely no sense, especially considering the nursing shortage Norway has right now. I see so many job ads for nurses just in our local paper, and I have read that the need for nurses is acute throughout the country. WTF?? If it's any consolation, I have a friend here, a fully trained, experienced nurse from Poland, who is also unable to practice her profession because Norway doesn't recognize her license. If you were a foreign engineer building a bridge or a designing subsea gas pipes, you'd have had a job upon your arrival. It's scandalous!

    It's two months since you wrote this post, so hopefully you're feeling better. I'll read on and find out. :-)