Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state
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New Article about Migrant Nurses in Norway

Looking past the typical categorizations of national identity, migrant, or nurse.

By Taylor Vaughn, Marie Louise Seeberg and Aslaug Gotehus

The very different laws and regulations shaping the migration and working patterns of Polish, Swedish, and Filipino nurses in Norway were a point of departure for our research. As expected, we found that these structural differences are greatest between the Swedish and Filipino nurses: Swedish nurse migration to Norway is actively supported through the Nordic co-operation while Filipino nurses face strict requirements both for immigration and for nurse registration.

The Concept of ‘Waiting’

Despite these drastic differences, we –surprisingly – found certain similarities in the experiences of the Filipino and Swedish nurses we interviewed. As our research progressed, we increasingly noticed the importance across national groups of family, of personal life goals, of money, and of a sense of moving forward in life.

In our recent article “Waiting: Migrant nurses in Norway,” we explore these similarities. In order to do that, we used the concept of “waiting.” This concept made it possible for us to have a broader perspective beyond the typical categorizations of national origin, migrant, or nurse. The commonalities in the types and length of waiting they experienced connect them across such categories, as individual people with their own particular experiences and thoughts.

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puzzle with the national flag of poland and norway on a world map

Geographic proximity matters

Geographic proximity between Poland and Norway affects Polish nurses’ lives and facilitates on-going mobility.

By Elżbieta M. Goździak and Izabella Main

In a recent blog post, Taylor wrote about the effects of the geographic proximity between Norway and Sweden on the lives of Swedish nurses who work in Norway, but continue to live, parent, and maintain meaningful relationships in Sweden. Taylor wondered whether the relative proximity of Poland and Norway, with frequent and cheap flights between the two countries, has similar consequences for Polish nurses employed in Norway.

Settled migrants and sojourners

Some of the Polish nurses we interviewed have settled permanently in Norway and brought with them their children and partners. In a couple of cases, they sought employment in Norway because they thought their children needing specialized medical attention would be better off in Norway than in Poland. On the other hand, many of the more recently arrived nurses see themselves as sojourners working in Norway to save money to buy a flat or a house in Poland and return home.

Going home between assignments

Whether they see themselves as permanently living in Norway or returning to Poland, the geographic proximity of the two countries affect many aspects of the nurses’ lives. Those who have secured their jobs with the help of recruitment agencies, often work on a series of short-term assignments with some “stand-by” times between the assignments.

Since many of the nurses working on contracts with recruitment agencies are provided with housing, they have to vacate the accommodations as they await a new placement. Most nurses go to Poland to stay with family if the “stand-by” time is longer than a couple of days. It is cheaper to book a flight and stay with parents or friends than to pay for a hotel in Norway. Short-term rentals in Norway are also not an option; they are both expensive and scarce.

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Nurse giving glass of water to elder woman seated in hospital bed.

Experiences of Immigrant Healthcare Assistants in Norwegian Elder Care. The Aging of the Norwegian Population

Vyda Hervie argues that quality care and quality employment are twin issues of social justice.

By Vyda Mamley Hervie

Norwegians are aging rapidly. As a result, there is an unprecedented demand for elder care workers, both in institutional settings and at home. The aging of the population coupled with a long-standing policy aimed at keeping remote areas of the country populated has resulted in a shortage of healthcare professionals in big cities and in rural areas. The one million people living in rural, often remote, areas of Norway are desperate for high quality care.

Striving for high quality elder care

Norwegian policy makers have been talking about quality in elder care for many years. In policy documents, such as the Care Plan 2020, the need for high standards of care is subject to intense scrutiny. Special attention is paid to the healthcare workforce in the plan.

In other words, quality care professionals and policy makers understand the importance of quality employment to the provision of quality care. The literature on quality of employment has long posited that policies of employment and relationships between employees are central to achievement levels among workers. Most of the crucial factors for employee well-being—e.g., professional development and good working conditions– are linked to increased productivity.

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Working in Norway, living in Sweden

Family obligations, staffing agencies, and traveling time all play a role in the working pattern and living situation of Swedish...

By Taylor Vaughn

Swedish nurses’ decisions to work in Norway are influenced by several factors. The geographic proximity is certainly important, but the flexibility provided by staffing agencies also makes working and having family in different countries possible. Higher wages make the jobs in Norway attractive and may, to a certain extent, alleviate the separation from loved ones.

Many Swedish nurses working in Norway do so through contracts with staffing agencies. Staffing agencies work closely with hospitals and other health care institutions to help them fill vacancies with qualified nurses. Those vacancies may be short-term, to cover positions of employees on parental or sick leave or on holiday, for example, or they may be longer-term.

Family obligations

So far, we have interviewed five Swedish nurses who worked in Norway at some point in their nursing career. All of them had families in Sweden and, for most, their familial obligations (to children or aging parents) and relationships prevented them from settling in Norway permanently, making these short-term positions highly attractive.

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The Cost of Authorization

Becoming an authorized nurse in Norway costs both time and money for nurses from the Philippines, and it is not...

By Aslaug Gotehus and Taylor Vaughn

Becoming authorized as a nurse in Norway requires a major investment of time for anyone. However, when you are moving to Norway from another country, the investment multiplies. When that country is outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), the investment multiplies again.

Leaving your country of origin and seeking new adventures and opportunities in a new country involves a range of investment costs along the way, emotional as well as economical. In addition to the cost of education and preparation for moving overseas, the nurses we’ve interviewed with an education from the Philippines face increasing costs of both time and money once arriving in Norway.

One of the main concerns of the nurses we have interviewed is being granted authorization as a nurse in Norway. Through our interviews with these nurses, we have come to realize just how difficult it can be to stay on top of the regulations.

Many of the nurses have expressed confusion and frustration over how often the nurse authorization regulations change and how difficult that makes it to be granted authorization. Along with these changes have come increasing fees.

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Research at the intersection of policy fields

As WELLMIG progresses, I recall the words of Socrates: I know that I know nothing. Perhaps I should paraphrase Socrates...

by Marie Louise Seeberg

When policies meet people

Like most research projects nowadays, WELLMIG is organized into work packages. One of them delves into what we have called the “regimes” of migration and integration for nurses wanting to come to work in Norway. That these regimes look very different for people coming from our three countries Sweden, the Philippines, and Poland is something we have mentioned before. They are subject to different policies of authorization and recognition of qualifications.

What we have discussed to a much smaller extent is the impact of other Norwegian policies on their opportunities and experiences along the way. This is where it gets really complicated.

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Our favourite reads in 2018

The New Year is a time for taking stock, reflecting, and looking ahead. The researchers in the WELLMIG team took...

As is to be expected, we have been reading—or should we say perusing—plenty of academic books on migration, including books directly related to our project such as “Caring for Strangers” by Megha Amrith, but we have also read novels and poetry involving migration and migrants, often penned by immigrant writers. Below is a selection of our readings. Maybe we can inspire you to pick up some of these titles, too?

Marie Louise Seeberg 

Book cover: The Sympatizer by Viet Thanh NguyenThe Sympathizer” by Nguyen Viet Thanh (2016) is a spy novel and a love story, but first and foremost a book about living one’s life between two very different countries and realities.

Book cover: Mastering the art of Soviet cookingA very different book but similar in just that one respect, “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing” by Anya von Bremzen (2013) paints a vivid picture of life in the Soviet Union through the lens of food memories. Not Proust, but much more fun to read – and again, conjuring up very different realities that are dependent on one another.

Bokk cover: The mushroom at the end of the worldImpossibly complex but a rolling good read all the same is “The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins” by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (2017). Yes, it’s about mushrooms. It’s also about Hmong refugees in the US, and about Finnish and Japanese forestry. And just about everything else.

Book cover: In the sea there are crocodilesIn the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari” by Fabio Geda is the devastating and beautifully written account of a young Afghan boy’s journey from his village through several countries and across the sea.

Book cover: PersepolisI like graphic novels too – and “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” by Marjane Satrapi is one of my favourites here. It lets you into the home and life of the author as she grew up in Iran during the years of the Islamic Revolution.

Finally, I’ll include “1947: Where Now Begins” by Elisabeth Åsbrink. This is a month-by-month recount of one year in history and not a particularly famous year at that. The fascinating thing here is that it lists sometimes unremarkable and always apparently unrelated events that are rooted in the preceding years of World War 2 (on which there must be millions of books), and that led to most remarkable events in the following years, such as the foundation of the state of Israel, the creation of the CIA, the invention of the Kalashnikov, and the beginning of the Cold War. All alongside quietly recorded events on the individual scale, in the life of the author’s father, then a 10-year-old refugee.

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Greener pastures or false promises?

Carolyn Arguelles writes about the risks Filipino nurses undertake to work in Norway and the strong motivation that drives them...

The Philippines is the world’s largest exporter of nurses. Filipino nurses can be found in the United States, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe. Many Filipino nurses work as au pairs or helsefagarbeider (auxiliary nurses) before they get registered as sykepleier (nurse).

Norway is attractive to Filipino nurses

Norway is very attractive to Filipino nurses, because of high wages, excellent social benefits, and exceptional quality of life. These incentives are sufficient for many Filipino nurses to take a risk and migrate to Norway thinking that they will find greener pastures there.

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Globalized world, mobility, and bureaucracy

Barriers to mobility and migration do not just affect the nurses that we study. Elżbieta Goździak and Taylor Vaughn write...

Seeking a job-seeker visa

After receiving her master’s degree, Taylor decided to apply for a job-seeker visa in Norway on the basis of having graduated from a Norwegian university. This visa would allow Taylor to work and remain in Norway for one year while looking for a job.

She didn’t really need to look for a job as she already had a contract from NOVA at OsloMet to work as part of the WELLMIG team. Unfortunately, the position was a part-time (50%) assignment. One needs to have at least an 80% position to apply for a work visa, but Taylor was optimistic that the job-seeker visa would allow her to continue working with our team. However, to Taylor’s dismay, her application was rejected on other grounds.

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What does it mean to be a nurse?

Being a nurse means different things to different nurses, as experiences shape the professional identity into a part of one’s...

Blog post by Marie Louise Seeberg

A question of national regulations

However, what it means to be a nurse is also very much a legal question. The nursing profession is regulated. This means that “nurse” is a protected title. You can’t just call yourself a nurse even if you feel like one, if you don’t meet the legal criteria.

There is no global definition. Each country has its own criteria. What it takes to fulfil the criteria is based on the content, shape, and size of the country’s own nursing education. This, again, is linked to its history, demographics, and culture.

In WELLMIG, we grapple with this question at all stages of the research. In our project proposal, which also serves as a guideline for the research, we defined “our” nurses as nurses educated in Sweden, Poland or the Philippines who are working as nurses, auxiliary nurses or “unskilled” healthcare workers in Norway. This definition clashes with that of Norwegian authorities, who only recognise as nurses those who have obtained Norwegian nurse registration (“autorisasjon” in Norwegian legalese).

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