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!