Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hope is waning and FAQs

I really should have learned my lesson by now, it's been taught to me enough: don't get my hopes up. I admit, I did finally allow myself to get hopeful after meeting with two nursing figures two weeks ago. One all but promised me we would get this straightened out within weeks; her conviction and fearlessness and simple interest and passion in our case--something we haven't gotten from anyone outside our own four walls at home--won us over. I had hope again.

We spoke with her last evening, after she had a meeting with a higher-up in the authorization office, and she admitted she now has a better understanding of what we are up against, namely Norwegian bureaucracy and Norwegian laws, and that sheer determination mixed with a little piss and vinegar isn't enough to break down those walls. There are official roads that we must take, and none of them are quick. Or easy (but c'mon. . . who was expecting quick and easy after 28 months?). Our two options at this point are essentially using a sivilombudsman (kind of a civil court of judges) to review the case and/or hiring an attorney.

Fun huh?

Did I mention that I am now 3 days away from my due date of our second child, and the thought of filing a law suit to fight for the right to work in this country has me (oh, what adjective captures my feelings) . . . a combination of disgusted, infuriated and exhausted. I'm sure the Finns have a word for it.

I thought I'd take a few minutes and address some of the questions and suggestions (all well-intentioned, of course) that I've received over the last few months about what-exactly-is-the-problem??? (And then maybe I'll stop writing about this for a while, because it's really becoming a way-too common theme of this blog, and I think I'm boring my readers!).


What exactly do the Norwegian authorities feel is not good enough in your nursing education?
It essentially boils down to how Europe and the US count credit hours. To put it generally, in Norway--and Europe--the number of hours spent both in and outside of class is included in the grand total of credit hours. In the US, our credit hours reflect the number of "contact hours" that students spend in-class, with the assumption that for every credit hour in class a student is spending 2-3 hours outside of class in preparation, research, projects, group work, etc.

This is a well-documented fact. There are several references that give guidance on how to convert American to European credits. My advisors and chair department heads at my bachelors and masters degree institutions explained this in depth. A Norwegian college dean compared her nursing program to mine and declared that my degree had more hours than the Norwegian program. My two degrees have been approved by NOKUT (the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education), which recognizes foreign higher education degrees.

All of this was ignored and not acknowledged by the authorization board and the health professionals appeal board.

Can't you just take a test or something? 
Norway actually does not have a national nursing exam that all newly educated nurses must pass in order to be licensed. Unlike the "nursing boards" in the United States, of which every newly graduated nursing student must take in order to become a Registered Nurse.

So, no. There is no test for me to take.

Is this happening to other American nurses?
Yes and No.

This is where the handling of these cases becomes completely arbitrary and inconsistent.

Most foreign applicants (from outside of the European Union) for nursing authorization in Norway are required to complete 8+ weeks of clinical time in various areas of nursing training. This most often is in the areas of psychiatry or on a medical/surgical unit.

It seemed that around the time of my decision from the appeals board (in May 2012) that the authorization board was getting more strict with its decisions regarding American nursing educations, but then I met two American-educated nurses while I took the national nursing course in November. Both of them had been approved by the authorization board--one without a single extra requirement, and with only verbal complaints via telephone, and nothing through the formal channels.

It is this inconsistency and arbitrary treatment that is infuriating.

You know, Norwegian nurses have the same problem getting a license in the United States. . . 
This may be true. But to be honest, this is not the issue at hand. We're talking about inconsistent, arbitrary and poorly researched treatment of American nurses in Norway, and not vice versa.

Can't you just reapply, just send in all your papers again to a different case manager?
This was suggested time and time again to me by my fellow students in the national nursing course.

No. I can't just reapply, and pretend that I haven't been the biggest pain in their ass over the last two years. According to Norwegian law, I have gone through the all of the appropriate legal channels--two written appeals with the authorization board, one appeal with the health professionals appeals board--and now my case is considered completely closed.

Can't someone at a college/university evaluate your transcripts and education and say which classes you would have to take to get a Norwegian nursing degree?
Funny you should suggest that. . . because we have done that, and a dean at a local college that offers a nursing program has evaluated my transcripts and work experience and has deemed that my education looks whole and complete and that her nursing program can't offer me a single thing.

Additionally, a college can't just hand me a degree and say "you seem to have done enough work". I need to take at least one years of courses (out of three) before I can be granted a degree.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Months have sped by, and my motivation to blog through the after-effects of my nursing course, Christmas preparations, two solid months of work, growing a baby and general day-to-day life busyness has been minimal. 

But I do owe you a few updates. . . 

The last real development in my quest for nursing/midwifery authorization was in late November, when a few members of Parliament spoke out in my behalf. But the buzz and momentum fizzled a bit after that, due to a combination of more pressing healthcare and other political events (hard to believe, I know) and Christmas break. 

I cannot be terribly specific in describing with whom we've been consulting, but after months and months of emails and phone calls and referrals from one person to another, we've eventually nailed down a few players in higher-up nursing/midwifery circles who are supportive, understanding, disgusted, and began working "undercover," so to speak. Many feel that they cannot officially come out and support me publicly, which has been a bit frustrating. It was also suggested that we form a Facebook "support group" where people can officially and publicly voice their support and let it be known to SAK (the artists formerly known as SAFH, the Norwegian authroization office for health professionals) that we ain't goin' away. Two who have supported the group include the local county/regional office of the Norsk Sykepleierforbund (the Norwegian nursing association/union) who is calling for SAK to reevaluate my application, based on the evaluation done by the local college research dean who judged that my bachelor's degree nursing education and work experience equaled (and exceeded) what her educational institution could offer me as a new nursing student. Also supporting the group is the member of Parliament who initially spoke out on my behalf. You can find the support group here: Støttegruppe for Emily Stange

Since then, Erik (and Greta) and I traveled to Oslo this past week, armed with binders of documents and correspondence, and met with the member of Parliament to discuss possible courses of action. We also met with two other powerful nursing figures who seem to have more connections than the Queen herself. For example, when we mentioned that we had been in contact with (names have been changed for the time being. . . ) Kari Nordmann, former head of a midwife organization, who cannot understand the reasoning behind SAK denying my midwife application, one of our two powerful nursing figures said, "Oh yes, she's my best friend. I'm having lunch with her next week. We'll contact this other Powerful Nursing Figure and get this straightened out." 

I have not allowed my hopes to get raised at all in the past few months, as they have tended to get dashed shortly thereafter. But even I will admit that these were very positive meetings with tremendous potential and--dare I say it outloud--I do have some hope for the first time in a very, very long time.